With Even Republicans Lashing Out, Abbott (Kind Of) Walks Back Increased Border Inspection

During a press conference on Wednesday, Gov. Greg Abbott said nearly a quarter of the vehicles the Department of Public Safety has stopped at the border since last week have been unsafe for Texas roads.
"Caricature: Texas Governor Greg Abbott" by DonkeyHotey is marked with CC BY-SA 2.0.
During a press conference on Wednesday, Gov. Greg Abbott said nearly a quarter of the vehicles the Department of Public Safety has stopped at the border since last week have been unsafe for Texas roads.
Even Republicans now are calling on Gov. Greg Abbott to cool it with the extra border security.

In an open letter to the governor this week, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller called Abbott’s recent border policy an “economy killing action.” Abbott’s administration recently implemented more commercial inspections, creating more hassles for truckers and a bottleneck of shipments at the border.

Miller called the increased inspections “political theater."

Abbott announced his plan for the new inspections on April 6 in response to a recent move by President Joe Biden’s administration. Since it was put in place by former President Donald Trump, a health order called Title 42 has been used to turn away migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border. According to United We Dream Action, a national group advocating for immigrant youths, about 1.7 million people were denied asylum under Title 42.

On April 1, the Biden administration announced plans to ditch the policy. Just five days later, Abbott would roll out his inspections in response, leading to longer wait times at the border for commercial traffic.

"The Biden Administration's open-border policies have paved the way for dangerous cartels and deadly drugs to pour into the United States, and this crisis will only be made worse by ending Title 42 expulsions," Abbott said last week. "With the end of Title 42 expulsions looming next month, Texas will immediately begin taking unprecedented action to do what no state has done in American history to secure our border."

Abbott also said his administration would send migrants who have been processed and released from federal custody to Washington because Biden hasn't offered a plan for after he's ended Title 42. The first bus of migrants arrived on Wednesday.

Some say this too is mere political theater.

“People fleeing economic instability, political strife, climate change, and overall uncertainty and seeking safety in the U.S. are human beings in need of compassion," Greisa Martinez Rosas, executive director of United We Dream Action, said in a written statement. "Unfortunately, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is using their lives as part of a calculated and desperate political stunt meant to further sow anti-immigrant hate and division among communities across the country."

Abbott's efforts have backfired, according to Miller. The increased delays at the border have caused deliveries to be postponed or canceled. As some trucks sit idle in line waiting to enter the U.S., the perishable goods they’re hauling are rotting.

“Your inspection protocol is not stopping illegal immigration,” Miller wrote in his letter. "It is stopping food from getting to grocery store shelves and in many cases causing food to rot in trucks – many of which are owned by Texas and other American companies.”

He added: “The people of Texas deserve better.”

At Abbott’s direction last week, state troopers basically started double checking inspections by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The increased inspections have resulted in miles-long lines of truckers at the border. Some of those truckers have protested, forming blockades at different entry points, including the busiest commercial crossing in the Rio Grande Valley. 

“The supply chain challenges caused by COVID and other global matters are now worsened by the Texas-Federal standoff.” – John D. Esparza, Texas Trucking Association

tweet this
Miller said more than 20,000 commercial trucks have been stuck at the border.

The Texas Trucking Association, which endorsed Abbott in his run for re-election, is now calling him out over the new inspections.

"[The Texas Trucking Association] is a strong advocate of enforcement and industry safety at the Texas border and across the nation and supports the Governor in his focus,” John D. Esparza, president and CEO of the group, said in an emailed statement. “Unfortunately, this new initiative duplicates existing screening efforts and leads to significant congestion, delaying the products Americans rely on from our largest trading partner, Mexico. The current situation on the border simply cannot be sustained and we urge President Joe Biden and Governor Greg Abbott to come together before our economy endures further irreparable damage.”

Esparza added, “The supply chain challenges caused by COVID and other global matters are now worsened by the Texas-Federal standoff.”

The White House also weighed in on Wednesday. “Governor Abbott’s unnecessary and redundant inspections of trucks transiting ports of entry between Texas and Mexico are causing significant disruptions to the food and automobile supply chains, delaying manufacturing, impacting jobs, and raising prices for families in Texas and across the country,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a written statement.

“Local businesses and trade associations are calling on Governor Abbot to reverse this decision because trucks are facing lengthy delays exceeding five hours at some border crossings and commercial traffic has dropped by as much as 60%,” Psaki said.

On Wednesday, Abbott held a press conference with Nuevo León Gov. Samuel Garcias in Laredo, where some expected him to walk back the new inspection policy. He did, but only slightly. "Border bridges have become clogged because of a policy by Texas to thoroughly inspect vehicles," Abbott said.

At the press conference, Abbott said Texas and Nuevo León have signed an agreement. Under that agreement, law enforcement in Nuevo León will beef up security on their side of the border and the DPS will return to its normal practice of randomly conducting inspections. However, the increased inspections will continue for any vehicles coming from Mexican states that haven't signed on to such an agreement.

"I understand the concerns that businesses have trying to bring products across the border," Abbott said. "The true fix for the clogged border begins with the White House."

While Republicans and Democrats alike are criticizing Abbott’s border inspections, the man looking to unseat him says there's blame to go around.

In a press conference early this week, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke said Biden should have had a plan for border communities before ending Title 42.

“It does not make sense to end this until there is a real plan and the capacity in place to handle those and address those that come over,” O’Rourke told The Texas Tribune. “I have yet to hear a plan from the Biden administration to address the dynamic we will have on the border once Title 42 ends.”