Houston – Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Wednesday that the days of difficult border traffic caused by new security checks he ordered last week were part of a concerted effort to force Mexican officials to do more to stem the flow. from migrants in the United States.
Strengthening the stakes in the immigration clash that has strained trade routes in Texas, Mr Abbott said he would end inspections at only one entry point – the bridge between Laredo and the Mexican city of Columbia, Nuevo Leon – and only because the governor agreed. to increase border security on the Mexican side.
Texas police, Mr Abbott said, will continue to stop all trucks coming from other Mexican states for safety inspections, despite growing pressure from trucks, business groups and officials on both sides to call for an end to delays. up to hours and even days and sharply limited trade traffic.
“Clogged bridges can only end with the kind of cooperation we are demonstrating today between Texas and Nuevo Leon,” said Mr Abbott, a two-term Republican who will be re-elected this year.
The statement marked a change in Mr Abbott’s public description of security inspections he ordered last week, acknowledging that they were a means of exerting political pressure on both Mexican officials and President Biden.
“The goal all along was to ensure that people understood the consequences of the open border and that Texas would no longer tolerate it,” Mr Abbott said.
In a statement Wednesday, Jen Psaki, a White House spokeswoman, called the inspections “unnecessary and unnecessary” and said “the continued flow of legitimate trade and travel and CBP’s ability to do its job should not be hampered”, citing blockades. at customs and border sites. Texas State Police have set up their vehicle safety checkpoints just beyond where trucks pass through a federal inspection, creating backups. Ms. Psaki said trade traffic had dropped by as much as 60 percent.
The Mexican Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it opposed Mr Abbott’s actions and that Mexican officials had kept in touch with Mr Abbott and federal officials in order to “find alternatives to ensure the security of our common border, without to harm binational trade. ”
Safety checks apply to all commercial vehicles entering Texas at major outlets, and in the days since they began, backups at the border have increased significantly.
Businesses complain that they cannot deliver goods to Texas. Mexican truck drivers, faced with all-day delays in the heat without food or baths, began protesting and blockades at intersections in the towns of Far and El Paso late Monday to Tuesday.
Even some Republican politicians, such as Conservative Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, have called on Mr Abbott to suspend inspections, saying they “increase the price of food and increase supply chain shortages”.
So on Wednesday, Mr Abbott appeared in the border town of Laredo with Mexican Governor Nuevo Leon Samuel Alejandro Garcia Sepulveda and said Texas would suspend security checks on trucks entering Laredo, a point that serves a relatively limited area. the border. “The Texas Department of Public Safety may return to its previous policy” of random checks at this point, Mr Abbott said.
Mr Garcia said that in return, officers in his state had set up some checkpoints on the Mexican side of the checkpoint and promised that “our 14-kilometer border with Texas will be constantly patrolled by our police”. (The border between Texas and Mexico is 1,254 miles or more than 2,000 kilometers.)
Mr Abbott described the decision as a victory, assuming he had reached an agreement with Mexican leaders in one state on border security, and promised to do so with others.
But that goal was never mentioned in Mr Abbott’s inspections last week. Instead, he said the inspections were part of a broad response to the Biden administration’s announcement that it would end the Trump-era policy of returning most migrants to the border under the public health rule known as Title 42.
Mr Abbott on Wednesday called on Mr Biden to maintain public health policy, which is expected to end next month.
Another part of Mr Abbott’s efforts to put pressure on the Biden administration, also announced last week, was to hire buses to take federal-released migrants to Texas and bring them to Washington or elsewhere outside the state. . The migrants went on a voluntary basis, government officials said.
The first of the buses arrived in Washington on Wednesday, Mr Abbott said in a statement, transporting two dozen migrants from Colombia, Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. The second was on the way.
A Fox News task force was available for the arrival of the first bus and took pictures of the migrants as they walked out near the Capitol wearing masks and tight manila envelopes.
Mr Abbott and his political strategists see the border and opposition to the Biden administration’s immigration policy as a win-win situation for voters, including many Democrats in Texas.
But backups caused by inspections, which industry experts said affected tens of millions of dollars in supplies alone, provided a rare opportunity for Democrats to use the border against Mr Abbott.
“This is the wrong answer to the problem with Title 42,” said Representative Henry Cuelar, a Democrat whose district includes Laredo. “All he did was slow down the national supply chain. It affects a lot of income here. The costs will be passed on from the companies to the consumers. “
Edgar Sandoval and Niraj Chokshi contributed to the reporting.