In an abrupt turn, Texas Department of Public Safety troopers will no longer inspect every commercial vehicle entering Laredo through Nuevo León, however inspections will continue in El Paso, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Wednesday.
The policy, in place since last week, has created hours-long traffic backlogs on the international bridges, prompted protests by truck drivers and angered business leaders.
During a press conference in Laredo, Abbott attributed his reversal to an agreement he reached with Nuevo León Gov. Samuel Alejandro García Sepúlveda for Mexican authorities to set up security checkpoints on the Mexican side of the Laredo-Colombia Solidarity International Bridge to screen northbound trucks. Garcia also agreed to increase patrols along the Rio Grande.
“I really wish my neighbors can join this memorandum of understanding,” García said, speaking to the governors of the states of Tamaulipas, Coahuila and Chihuahua — which have far more commercial border crossing points than Nuevo León’s sole international bridge.
Abbott said the increased DPS safety inspections were needed to crack down on cartel smuggling of drugs and migrants into Texas, which he said will worsen next month when the Biden administration lifts Title 42, a pandemic-era health rule that allows immigration officials to quickly turn away migrants at the border.
But U.S. Customs and Border Protection, in a Tuesday news release, called the state-led inspections “unnecessary.”
“CBP employs an in-depth strategy at the border to detect and disrupt illegal activity, including narcotics and human smuggling,” the federal agency’s release stated.
As of Tuesday, DPS said it had inspected 4,133 commercial vehicles, 973 of which “were placed out of service for serious safety violations” such as defective tires, brakes or lighting. It said an additional 84 drivers “were placed out of service,” but provided no other details.
Abbott said his office has been in communication with Mexico’s other border governors and meetings with them could begin as early as Thursday.
“If they will live up to the same commitment shown by Governor García, we will be able to quickly achieve a deal or agreement that will make sure their ports are open quicker and that the border will be more secure,” Abbott said.
Abbott cast his decision to boost DPS inspections as a way to push Mexico to increase its border security efforts in response to — what he calls — President Joe Biden’s “open border” policies; rather than a concession to mounting criticism of the added inspections, including from Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, a fellow Republican.
“We knew that as soon as we did what we did on the border that we would be contacted by officials in Mexico because it is a very high price to pay with regard to what is going on on the border,” Abbott said.
Chihuahua Gov. María Eugenia Campos Galván put out a statement Tuesday urging her fellow border governors to work with Abbott to find a solution to increased border wait times caused by the DPS inspections.
The delays on El Paso’s two commercial bridges, with wait times stretching upwards of four hours, have led truck drivers to cross at Santa Teresa, New Mexico, bypassing the Texas inspections.