Greg Abbott hit brakes on policy after a week of backlash and fears of deepening economic losses as food supplies held in protest
Sat 16 Apr 2022 15.09 EDT
Texas governor Greg Abbott has made an about-face on his policy of tighter inspections of trucks entering Texas from Mexico, a week after he implemented the policy which led to Mexican truckers blockading border bridges in protest and holding up food supplies to the US as a result.
He reversed course on Friday night after a week of intensifying backlash and fears of deepening economic losses.
Abbott, a Republican, announced that he reached an agreement with officials from four neighboring Mexican states including Nuevo León, Chihuahua, Coahuila and Tamaulipas on improving border security and was thus lifting the controversial policy that were part of his stepped-up efforts against human and drug trafficking, he had said.
“As we are speaking this moment, all these bridges are opened back up to normal trafficking. And so, all the goods that used to go from one country to the other at a very rapid pace, they are moving at that rapid pace as we speak right now,” Abbott announced during a news conference on Friday.
“If we do see increased [illegal] trafficking across the border we will strategically shut down certain bridges,” he warned.
Some truckers reported waiting more than 30 hours to cross. Others blocked one of the world’s busiest trade bridges in protest.
Abbott, who is up for reelection in November and has made the border his top issue, fully lifted the inspections.
The last cross-border agreement to resolve the dispute was signed with the governor of Tamaulipas, who earlier this week said the inspections were overzealous and created havoc.
On Friday, he joined Abbott and said they were ready to work together.
When Abbott first ordered the inspections, he did not say lifting them was conditional on such arrangements with Mexico.
Last week, he ordered state authorities to conduct “enhanced safety inspections” of vehicles crossing into Texas from Mexico in what he portrayed as stepped-up efforts against human trafficking and contraband being smuggled across the US-Mexico border.
The governor said that his new policy was “sending a message to both the president and Congress: Texas is tired of being the unloading dock for illegal immigrants crossing the border”.
However, shortly after the policy was put into place, numerous Mexican truck drivers blockaded border bridges in response, as many decried the policy.
Even though 25% of the inspected vehicles were removed from the roads as a result of faulty brakes and other malfunctions, drivers and business groups alike argued that the policy has led to clogged traffic at entry ports and resulted in supply chain disruptions.
“I get paid the same whether it takes me an hour or 10 hours to cross, so this is affecting us a lot,” Mexican truck driver Raymundo Galicia had said, noting he and his co-workers would target more bridges if delays continued.
According to the Texas International Produce Association (Tipa), approximately $150m worth of fruit and vegetables were stalled on the border which included limes, tomatoes, cucumbers and mangoes.
“Going into this Easter weekend, consumers are going to see store shelves devoid of certain items,” said Tipa chief executive officer Dante Galeazzi, adding that the midwest and east coast will likely experience the food shortage first.
Earlier this week, Texas agriculture commissioner Sid Miller warned that the policy and subsequent blockade would result in food price hikes, likely increasing avocado prices to $5 apiece.
“Some retailers, particularly those in the grocery industry, have experienced supply chain delays resulting from the extended wait times along the Texas-Mexico border,” John McCord, executive director of the Texas retailers association, told Bloomberg.
The White House had condemned Abbott’s policy, saying that it has brought “significant” disruptions to supply chains.
Earlier this month, Abbott announced that he was going to send undocumented migrants from the southern border to Washington, DC.
The announcement was met with bipartisan criticism which prompted Abbott to soften his plan, as he later clarified that any transportation out of Texas would be entirely voluntary and only done so after an individual had been processed by the Department of Homeland Security for release into the US.