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Facing increased border inspection delays in Texas, Mexican semi-trucks opt for Arizona

The result is a giant backup of big rigs, costing businesses millions of dollars and...
The result is a giant backup of big rigs, costing businesses millions of dollars and threatening to cost consumers even more.(Arizona's Family)
Published: Apr. 13, 2022 at 8:46 PM MST
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NOGALES, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) – Chris Ciruli calls it an “unforced error.” He’s referring to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s move to inspect every vehicle crossing the Texas border with Mexico using highway patrol officers. The result is a giant backup of big rigs, costing businesses millions of dollars and threatening to cost consumers even more.

“This is something that didn’t have to happen. It certainly didn’t have to happen on a holiday weekend,” said Ciruli, chief operating officer of Ciruli Brothers Produce. The company imports fresh fruits and vegetables from Mexico to the U.S. through ports of entry in Texas and Arizona.

The trouble started last week when Abbott announced his increased inspections in response to the Biden Administration’s plans to lift Title 42 immigration expulsions. That measure was implemented by President Donald Trump at the beginning of the pandemic and allowed immigration agents to quickly deport immigrants without allowing them to apply for asylum.

The Biden move has angered some politicians, most of them Republicans. Arizona’s two senators, Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly, both Democrats, have also joined in the call to keep Title 42 in place, citing a surge in illegal border crossings, which began during the last year of Trump’s term in office.

But no politician has gone as far as Abbott. This year, the two-term Texas governor is running for re-election and ordered his highway patrol to double as CBP officers. They are currently inspecting all vehicles entering the U.S., just north of the ports of entry.

“Border bridges have become clogged because of a policy by Texas to thoroughly inspect vehicles coming from Mexico,” said Abbott on Wednesday. “Texas has been overrun with a record number of illegal immigrants crossing from Mexico into Texas with the assistance of cartels,” he said.

CBP Officers already inspect vehicles at the ports of entry. In a statement released Tuesday, CBP stated, “The longer than average wait times – and the subsequent supply chain disruptions – are unrelated to CBP screening activities and are due to additional and unnecessary inspections being conducted by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) at the order of the Governor of Texas.”

Abbott’s office has not revealed whether the increased inspections have resulted in drug seizures or human smuggling arrests.

On a normal day, thousands of semi-trucks filled with electronics, auto parts and fresh produce cross the Mexico border into Texas. The result of the state inspections is that trucks are now waiting for days to cross the border.

“We have actual drivers, actual drivers that are trapped sitting on a bridge. They’ve been there for five days now,” said Ciruli.

The week leading up to Easter and Passover are traditionally busy days for produce importers because most supermarkets and restaurants rely on produce from Mexico this time of year. Now, Ciruli and other importers are re-routing trucks to the Arizona border with Mexico.

“So what you’re doing is you’re adding cost to the end consumer. You’re trucking it more miles. You’re trucking it more days. So the consumer is getting a loss or getting a higher price and a less fresh product. So it’s not a win for the consumer,” said Ciruli.

Ciruli says grocery stores east of the Mississippi would likely get hit hardest but that prices for fresh fruits and vegetables are likely to rise across the country this weekend.

On Wednesday, Abbott called off the extra inspections at a smaller port of entry after the Governor of the Mexican state Nuevo Leon agreed to increase anti-smuggling efforts on the south side of the border. Reaching such agreements with his Mexican counterparts was not one of the original goals which Abbott announced last week.

Even if the increased inspections ended today, experts in supply chain issues say it could take weeks to get the free flow of goods back to normal.