Texas troopers renew inspections of commercial vehicles at Brownsville border bridge, triggering long delays

Commercial trucks are inspected by a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper at an inspection station in Brownsville on April 12, 2022. DPS began inspecting commercial vehicles again this week in Brownsville, causing long delays. (Michael Gonzalez For The Texas Tribune, Michael Gonzalez For The Texas Tribune)

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The Texas Department of Public Safety restarted safety inspections of all commercial vehicles coming from Mexico this week, targeting at least one port of entry in Brownsville and causing between eight- to 24-hour delays for truckers trying to cross the border.

The inspections started Tuesday and “will continue for an undetermined amount of time,” Ericka Miller, a DPS spokesperson, said in an email. The inspections are happening at the Veterans International Bridge at Los Tomates that connects Brownsville with Matamoros, Tamaulipas, according to DPS.

Miller didn’t respond to a question about what prompted troopers to inspect all cargo this week.

A different DPS spokesperson on Thursday told The Monitor, a newspaper in McAllen, that troopers are also inspecting cargo at the Free Trade International Bridge at Los Indios.

Last year, Gov. Greg Abbott ordered state troopers to inspect every commercial truck coming from Mexico’s four border states in what he described as an effort to stop illegal drugs and migrants from being smuggled into Texas.

Over eight days in April, troopers inspected more than 4,100 vehicles. They didn’t find any drugs, weapons or other contraband, but they took 850 vehicles off the road for various equipment violations and cited at least 345 drivers for things such as underinflated tires, broken turn signals and oil leaks.

The inspections ended when Abbott signed agreements with the four governors of the Mexican border states that they would increase security measures to prevent the smuggling of drugs and migrants. But three of the four Mexican governors said they would simply continue security measures they already had put in place before Abbott ordered the state inspections.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents routinely — and randomly — inspect commercial cargo coming from Mexico for illegal drugs and people being smuggled as soon as truckers cross the international bridges.

The latest inspections drew a new round of criticism from the Mexican government, Texas lawmakers and businesses who called them a waste of time that is costing both countries a lot of money.

Mexican Consul General Pablo Marentes in Austin said in an interview with The Texas Tribune that his country's government is calling on Abbott to let trade flow to normal times. The Mexican government estimates that in 2021, there was $688 billion worth of trade between Texas and Mexico and that 300,000 Texas jobs are dependent on trade with Mexico.

“The efficient flow of cross-border commerce is critical to our nation’s economic stability, and additional, uncoordinated inspections will significantly impact local supply chains in Texas and across the United States,” U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, wrote Thursday in a letter to Abbott.

Dennis E. Nixon, CEO of the International Bank of Commerce in Laredo, also sent a letter to Abbott, telling the governor that he understands the need for policies to reduce illegal activity at the border, but arguing that the inspections will only hurt the state economy and cause more chaos than order.

“This plan is incredibly flawed because Mexican governors do not control the border — the cartels do,” Nixon wrote. “Using tough guy tactics against the governors in Mexico is just going to further contribute to the crisis on the border. Please remember — actions always create equal and opposite reactions.”

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