There’s nothing like shutting down thousands of trucks to crawl from Mexico into Texas and points beyond to get folks’ attention. Gov. Greg Abbott had obviously craved that attention.
On April 6, he continued his focus on immigration, both legal and illegal, to milk as much publicity as possible about the border to help along his re-election effort in November to a second four-year term.
He issued an order that day to have a far more stringent inspection of trucks crossing the border from Mexico into Texas, to more thoroughly check for contraband, illegal drugs and other possible infractions, as well as mechanical and safety problems.
However, the reaction, by all indications, is that his search-and-inspect-the-trucks order created a lot of confusion, plus irretrievable financial losses for people on both sides of the border.
A fellow statewide Republican elected official, Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, sent the governor a letter, urging him to rescind his truck-crossing slowdown order. Miller said the jam-up of trucks caused by the order needed to end.
He later expanded on that statement to a reporter.
“I’ll just say it, this is just political theater,” Miller said. “There’s 20,000 trucks a day coming through Laredo (before the policy). Now, we’re going to get about 700 a day. This has really backfired on him. It’s really compounded the problem.”
Abbott had ordered the inspections, saying they are needed to control the migrant situation, and the smuggling of illegal drugs. But then, Abbott’s November
Democratic opponent Beto O’Rourke, said that Abbott’s inspection policy was causing massive trade backlogs and “is killing the Texas economy.”
“It’s going to be very bad for the Texas economy,” O’Rourke declared, during a news conference in an empty cold-storage warehouse in the border community of Pharr.
A problem, a South Texas person in the industry said, was that his livelihood was suffering enormously, because he’s sitting for as much as 16 hours a day, while each truck waits to undergo a 45-minure inspection.
Abbott’s order, according to Waco-based economist Ray Perryman, cost Texas about $470 million a day. That’s based on research done by his firm, the Perryman Group, on previous border shutdowns.
At that daily rate of loss, the nine days before Abbott rescinded his order could have drained more than $4 billion – that’s “Billion” with a “B” – among the truckers, packers, retailers, and those who supply the meals and housing and trucking and warehousing and distribution of perishable fruits and vegetables, that provide a very significant chunk of the money the area depends on – on both sides of the border.
O’Rourke, Abbott’s Democratic challenger in November, is a former three-term congressman from the border community of El Paso. O’Rourke had earlier tagged Abbott’s stringent measure a “stunt,” and repeated it Friday, April 15, in a press conference in El Paso.
“This was a manufactured stunt,” O’Rourke told reporters. “This was a problem that Greg Abbott created to score political points.”
Other critics included trade association representatives, and from business people usually identified as Republican supporters, and community leaders along both sides of the border, who had urged Abbott to tone down his order.
“This is destroying our business and the reputation of Texas,” wrote Dante Galeazzi, president of the Texas International Produce Association, in a letter to Abbott.
Chris Spear, the president and CEO of the American Trucking Association, said “Greg Abbott is directly responsible for applying these new senseless inspections on our industry as well as the adverse impact they are having on the economy and hardworking Americans including truckers.”
Abbott said that the backlog of inspection and the miles-long lines of trucks had managed to put pressure on governors of the four Mexican states that touch Texas. Over the past few days, he said he had managed governors of those states to sign agreements to increase security measures on their side of the border, in exchange for the Texas Department of Public Safety easing up on inspections in those areas.
“There is a sense of urgency now to reach deals that wasn’t there before,” Abbott said.
Abbott did manage to put the issue on the front burner. Now we may be seeing who – if anyone — gets burned.