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Gov. Abbott's order for truck inspections is all an unnecessary PR stunt, critics say


To the Texas-Mexico border now, where commercial trucks have been spending hours, some even days, waiting to enter the U.S. That is because Texas Governor Greg Abbott ordered new inspections on all trucks crossing into his state from Mexico. He says these inspections are needed to combat drug smuggling and human trafficking. But critics from Mexico to the White House say it's an unnecessary PR stunt and that it's causing very real problems for businesses and consumers on both sides of the border. And protests are making the situation even worse.

Texas Public Radio's Pablo De La Rosa joins us now from McAllen, Texas. Welcome.

PABLO DE LA ROSA, BYLINE: Thank you for having me.

ESTRIN: Pablo, what does it look like right now at the border?

DE LA ROSA: Well, local law enforcement has shut down all traffic lanes at the Reynosa-Pharr International Bridge. That handles most of the commercial traffic that comes into Hidalgo County. We've seen hundreds of semitrailer trucks queued on the Mexican side. And transport companies are actually refilling those trucks with diesel continuously to keep refrigeration on those trucks on and save as much product as possible. On top of that, truckers on the Mexican side have started a blockade in protest of these inspections that have caused delays. And that's made the situation for traffic worse.

Santos Alvarado is a commercial truck driver I spoke with who left one of his trucks in the blockade on the Mexican side. And he says these protests began on Saturday.

SANTOS ALVARADO: (Speaking Spanish).

DE LA ROSA: Alvarado is saying that the drivers who organized this blockade are prepared to continue this until inspections are terminated completely in the United States. And we have seen some change in the inspection policy starting today. Governor Greg Abbott announced in a press conference earlier today that Texas will pull back Texas Department of Public Safety inspections, but only at the international bridge with Nuevo Leon, as that Mexican state has recently increased its security on the Mexican side.

ESTRIN: OK. So the governor has announced he will stop these additional inspections at one border crossing. How is that going to change the situation at the border?

DE LA ROSA: Well, Nuevo Leon shares only 10 miles of border with Texas. It shares one international bridge. So it won't be a complete reversal to, you know, some of the economic impact we've seen from this. Does Mexico intend to reroute commercial traffic from Tamaulipas, maybe from Laredo, which is only 20 miles away and is the busiest truck port in America, carrying auto parts, electronics, produce northbound into the U.S.? Maybe the governor will make the same deals at other bridges in the coming days. We have to watch to see what happens.

ESTRIN: OK. Now, critics say this decision by Governor Abbott to inspect incoming trucks is causing supply chain concerns. Could you tell us more about that?

DE LA ROSA: Right. Trade groups are calling this a supply chain crisis, and they're seeing millions of dollars being lost per day. The White House, the Department of Homeland Security, even Customs and Border Protection - they've all issued press releases saying that this is unnecessary, and it's being caused by the Texas Department of Public Safety at the order of Abbott. Even some Republicans in Texas have criticized Abbott for saying - for doing this, saying it's hurting business. It's hurting consumers. And on the Mexican government side, they've been relatively quiet on the issue. Again, the governor of Nuevo Leon, working with Abbott on this issue, they haven't yet criticize the governor publicly on it.

ESTRIN: OK. Texas Public Radio's Pablo De La Rosa, reporting from McAllen, Texas, in the Rio Grande Valley, thank you very, very much.

DE LA ROSA: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Daniel Estrin is NPR's international correspondent in Jerusalem.
Alejandra Marquez Janse
Alejandra Marquez Janse is a producer for NPR's evening news program All Things Considered. She was part of a team that traveled to Uvalde, Texas, months after the mass shooting at Robb Elementary to cover its impact on the community. She also helped script and produce NPR's first bilingual special coverage of the State of the Union – broadcast in Spanish and English.
Amy Isackson