Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday lifted the latest of the increased vehicle inspections that disrupted traffic on the Texas-Mexico border and drew fierce opposition from business leaders. But the Republican warned he would not hesitate to bring back the policies that have caused hours of traffic delays unless leaders of four Mexican states that border Texas do their part to slow illegal immigration.
“If there is no slowdown in illegal immigration, there will be a reintroduction,” he told a news conference in Weslaco. “One consequence of this is financial pain, and that financial pain is necessary to get the public to insist that their leaders, like the presidents of the two countries involved, take the actions needed to resolve this issue. “
Texas lost an estimated $477 million a day during Abbott’s tightened border security checks, says well-known and independent Texas economist Ray Perryman, president and CEO of the Perryman Group, citing preliminary data he plans to release in a new study next week.
Mexico is Texas’ #1 trading partner. More than $661 billion was traded between the U.S. and Mexico in 2021, according to U.S. Census data.
“Our economies are so interdependent that such policies make us less efficient and force us to lose some of the benefits of cross-border trade,” Perryman said. “So my message to Governor Abbott is that we must do whatever it takes to encourage the smooth movement of goods and services across the border, and not something else.”
Abbott, who is running for re-election, ordered the additional security inspections on April 6 after saying the Biden administration had failed the country on border security. He said DPS employees inspecting the commercial vehicles were disrupting efforts to smuggle people and drugs across the border.
But increased security checks, in addition to other federal checks, have increased waiting times at the border. According to US Customs and Border Protection, wait times for commercial crossings were up to 12 hours, while some truckers interviewed at the crossings said they had to wait two or three days for the crossing.
Abbott agreed to facilitate inspections in exchange for security commitments from the governors of all four of Mexico’s states that border Texas: Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas. The governors each met with Abbott to publicly explain their ongoing border security efforts.
“We will do whatever is necessary to ensure that we have secure borders where both countries follow the law,” Abbott said at the news conference with Tamaulipas Gov. Francisco Javier Cabeza de Vaca.
“We don’t want organized crime in my state any more than you do,” Cabeza de Vaca said. “It’s not an easy task.”
At the press conference, Cabeza de Vaca touted the work his state is already doing to address security, including a campaign begun in 2018 to break up drug cartels with the help of US law enforcement officials.
“Although we have worked with the Texas Department of Public Safety on various operations, we must renew our efforts to continue working together,” he said. “Immigration control is a federal matter, but I will always provide assistance where we can do what we need to do.”
“If we see increased human trafficking across the border, we will strategically close certain bridges,” Abbott said. Abbott acknowledged the move will cause “financial pain,” but he called it necessary to get the public to insist that leaders in Mexico and the White House “fix this problem.”
He urged President Joe Biden and Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to work on solutions to border migration.
Abbott ordered the increased security inspections as an extension of his Operation Lone Star border security efforts. The state has spent billions of dollars on the operation, which includes enlisting 10,000 Texas National Guard troops and deploying them to the border along with state troops.
He backed down from ordering state troops to inspect all commercial traffic crossing the border after days of imposing traffic on international bridges and blockades on the Mexican side by angry truckers. Conservative and liberal politicians, trade and business leaders have criticized the increased controls.
For days, Mexican truckers, angered by the slow pace of controls – most are paid by the number of loads they bring across the border – have continued to disrupt traffic on some of the bridges with their own protest blockades.
Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, a Mexican-born George Mason University political scientist and author, called the promise made by governors on both sides of the Texas border “ridiculous” and “dangerous.”
“These are federal affairs, immigration and security. Abbott and the four Mexican governors are beyond their abilities. Also, Mexican governors cannot even control their own territories,” Correa-Cabrera said. “Corruption scandals have surrounded her tenure amid reports of disappearances” and killings.
But Tom Fullerton, an economics professor at the University of Texas at El Paso, said governors had “no choice but to play with the media circus in Austin.”
“Further supply chain disruption during an inflationary boom will hurt corporate profitability and hurt consumers’ purchasing power at the checkout,” he said.
Some Mexican commentators and analysts have observed Mexican governors siding with Abbott with “shock,” said Javier Garza, a journalist and radio commentator in the state of Coahuila.
“Abbott is one of the main creators of the climate of fear of undocumented migrants to gain election gains,” he said. “It’s a shame that he can influence the economies of both countries just to get votes. If a Mexican politician did that, he would be hooked.”