SAN ANTONIO – Days before lanes were shut down on three of Laredo’s four international bridges, Richard Perez, president and CEO of the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, said several local manufacturers were already nervous.
“Just the rumor that the president might close the border scared everybody half to death,” Perez said.
Perez said he believes the impact is being felt in San Antonio by the fact that its neighbor to the south, the nation’s largest inland port in Laredo, has slowed to a crawl, especially on the World Trade Bridge, which handles 15,000 trucks daily.
“It’ll just be a disruption of the supply chain that will take who knows how long to fix,” Perez said.
Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz said the lanes were reduced Wednesday at the World Trade Bridge, the Juarez-Lincoln Bridge and the Colombia Bridge.
Saenz said the move was the result of U.S. Customs and Border Protection temporarily reassigning up to 20 percent of its approximately 1,000 inspectors normally working at the international bridges in Laredo.
In its statement, CBP said since U.S. Border Patrol doesn’t have the personnel to handle the number of Central American families and unaccompanied minors asking for asylum, the inspectors will help “with care and custody responsibilities, including hospital watch and transportation.”
However, at its meeting Thursday, the Laredo City Council was expected to adopt a resolution opposing the decision, saying it would “restrict the continuation of trade and movement of consumer goods throughout the United States … affecting the cost of goods and wages of millions of Americans.”
The mayor said he’s appealed to Laredo’s congressional delegation and to lawmakers in Austin to reconsider by bringing in other CBP employees, not bridge inspectors.
The president and CEO of the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce asked, “Why didn’t they move its people from the northern U.S. border, not ours?”
Saenz said what’s happening now is another example of how border communities are at the mercy of political wrangling in Washington, as well as inaction by Congress.
“This happens over and over again,” Saenz said. “Frankly, we’re tired of it.”
“If it doesn’t get fixed now, there will be terrible consequences," Saenz said. “Every day that goes by, it’s going to create even more economic havoc for the entire nation.”