PHARR, Texas (Border Report) — Commercial truck traffic resumed Thursday at the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge, the nation’s No. 1 port of entry for fruits and vegetables from Mexico.
The bridge had been closed since Monday after truckers in Mexico blocked entry to the bridge in protest of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s heightened state inspections in anticipation of the Biden administration ending Title 42 on May 23. The increased inspections started last week and caused delays of 20 hours and truck lines 15 miles long waiting in Reynosa, Mexico.
The City of Pharr on Wednesday evening announced that the truck blockade in Reynosa had been lifted.
“We are glad to know that the situation has been resolved and that the flow of traffic, international business, and commerce in our region has resumed normal operations,” the city said in a statement. “We continue to work with all partners to ensure that operations are functioning efficiently and effectively.”
However, the Texas Department of Public Safety continued to inspect trucks in Pharr.
And although the bridge had reopened on Thursday, there were noticeably fewer trucks passing north and south via the bridge, with many avoiding the area and having chartered alternate routes due to the blockade.
Meanwhile, businesses along the South Texas border fear that other blockades at other international bridges could begin there if heightened inspections begin at those ports and could be a repeat of what happened in Pharr.
Abbott says that the increased inspections are necessary to secure the border.
On Wednesday, the governor of the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon, Samuel Garcia, signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott at the Columbia International Bridge on the northwestern edge of Laredo, Texas, where Abbott promised to stop the intense inspections in exchange for Garcia’s promise of increased truck inspections by Mexican police south of the Rio Grande.
On Thursday, Abbot and the governor of the Chihuahua signed a similar agreement in Austin.
U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Democrat from Laredo, told Border Report on Thursday that he spoke with the secretary of economics from Coahuila, which is the Mexican border state just west of Nuevo Leon. He said government officials in that state also were anxious to reach an agreement with Abbott so trucks can flow freely once again through ports of entry connecting Coahuila and Texas.
“He said ‘Hey can you please put us in contact with the governor’s office? We want to work this out,” Cuellar said.
But such agreements have not been signed with the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, which shares over 200 miles of international border with Texas that spans from Brownsville, on the Gulf of Mexico, to downtown Laredo.
Experts tell Border Report that the increased amounts of drugs and human trafficking in Tamaulipas will make signing an MOU with that state trickier.
“It’s going to take more coordination on the Mexican side — more effort, more resources, more personnel. But if they’re willing to do that I think Gov. Abbott is looking for a platform to get out of this situation because he dug himself into a situation that’s affecting our supply chain,” Cuellar said.
The majority of the nation’s fruits and vegetables from Mexico — over 65% — cross over this bridge annually. However, during the shutdown, the 2,500 commercial trucks that normally use this bridge had to find alternate routes. Some went as far as 1,200 miles out of their way to cross in Nogales, Arizona, or farther into San Diego.
Many thousand pounds worth of fruits and vegetables sat in idling trucks in Reynosa, business owners told Border Report.
Joe Arevalo, the owner of Keystone Cold, has operated a cold-storage facility in Pharr for 30 years.
He told Border Report that he had thousands of dollars of products that were affected by the bridge shut down. One client had 15 loads of limes — each load worth $70,000 — stuck in Reynosa trying to cross into Pharr, and another had 18 $35,000 loads of fruits and vegetables rotting in Mexico.
“Because of a strike that was caused by the policy,” he said. “Who’s going to reimburse them for those loads? Who’s going to reimburse them for the loss of sales?”
Several trucks that deliver to Arevalo diverted to Nogales during the strike, he said.
Arevalo says this week he lost a lot of sleep worrying about his business. And after three decades in the cold-storage business in South Texas, he is seriously considering of moving his business west to Arizona.
Abbott said Thursday in a statement that the inspections are vital to the safety of Texans and will continue unless Mexican officials also agree to similar pacts.
“Texans demand and deserve an aggressive, comprehensive border security strategy that will protect our communities from the dangerous consequences related to illegal immigration,” Abbott said. “Until President Biden enforces the immigration laws passed by Congress, Texas will step up and use its own strategies to secure the border and negotiate with Mexico to seek solutions that will keep Texans safe.”