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Broken immigration system responsible for logistics nightmare at border


There is a logistics nightmare occurring in the Borderplex (El Paso, Texas; Santa Teresa, New Mexico; and Juarez, Chihuahua), which is affecting commerce and supply chains throughout the world. First, the El Paso sector Customs and Border Protection (CBP) headquarters office announced on September 16 that it would shut down commercial service at the Bridge of the Americas/Cordova Bridge, which is a major cargo bridge in central El Paso, Texas. The reason for this action was that the federal government had to pull CBP officers off this bridge to assist the Border Patrol in dealing with a new surge of migrants from countries in Central and South America who are attempting to enter the U.S. to seek asylum.

Immediately, commercial traffic began diverting to the Santa Teresa (New Mexico), Ysleta (east El Paso), and Marcelino Serna (east of El Paso) Ports of Entry. Santa Teresa, which had been processing an average of approximately 700 northbound trucks per day, immediately saw northbound commercial crossings jump to 1,200 to 1,500 trucks per day. Ysleta, which is the largest commercial port in the El Paso region, is experiencing lines of trucks miles long. Marcelina Serna, which is relatively new to commercial crossings and typically has very little northbound commercial traffic, is now crossing hundreds of trucks per day.

At Santa Teresa and Ysleta, truck drivers are sleeping in their rigs when the ports close so that they don’t lose their place in line when the ports open in the morning. Logistics companies have been shuttling food, water, and porta potties out to stranded drivers, and sometimes replacing them with new ones. Meanwhile, in order to deal with bottlenecks, CBP has extended hours at area ports of entry during the week and on Saturdays.

Then, Mexican railroad company Ferromex announced on September 19 that it was shutting down northbound trains to its northern border with the U.S. Thousands of migrants have been using its freight trains to hitch a ride north to the U.S. border. They ride on the top of the train, between boxcars and even hang off the sides. Many are injured or sometimes killed doing this. A friend of mine in the railroad industry said that his colleagues at Ferromex are also experiencing severe disruptions of service as migrants flood the railyards in order to climb on the trains. Eventually sixty trains were not allowed to proceed, which carried cargo equivalent to 1,800 cargo trucks.

Finally, in order to throw salt in the wound, on September 19, Texas Governor Greg Abbot again ordered Texas state troopers - he did this last year - to conduct secondary inspections on northbound trucks at El Paso’s commercial ports of entry. This is being done under the aegis of stopping the migrants from entering the U.S. It has had the effect of slowing cross-border commerce to a crawl, with firms scrambling to deal with shortages and late shipments. Production plants in Juarez are seeing a build-up in their inventory that is slow to cross the border into the U.S.

Again, this is another example of the fact that our immigration system is broken, and politicians are not playing a part in the solution. First, migrants are not entering the U.S. in cargo shipments. Northbound trucks are multi-inspected by Mexican Customs on the Mexican side, CBP at the ports of entry, and USDOT, which conducts safety inspections. By the time the truck reaches Texas DPS, any migrants or contraband will almost certainly be detected and detained.

When Texas DPS conducted these secondary inspections last year, it announced no major discoveries. I would bet good money that they will not find anything this time around either. This action by Texas only has the effect of slowing down commerce. Loads are not being delivered on time, disrupting supply chains, which causes delays and shortages, which will cause consumers to pay higher prices for products.

The migrant crisis is not an American or Mexican problem, or Democratic-Republican problem, it is a hemispheric one that needs to be solved at the countries of origin where the migrants originate. Countries such as Venezuela, Nicaragua, and El Salvador have failed economies and governments. One federal official told me that human traffickers in these countries are falsely telling vulnerable people that if they reach the U.S., they will automatically get a job and benefits. When they arrive, they find out that this is not the case. Generally, immigrants waiting for their asylum hearing in the U.S. will have to wait a long time and are limited in work options.

Officials I have talked to are saying this surge could last longer due to the buildup of migrants on the other side of border. Meanwhile, gridlock and petty politics in Washington do nothing to address the issue. When we see press on churches and mission houses overflowing on the border, immigrants sleeping on sidewalks waiting to go to their final destination, or problems cities such as New York are having accommodating influxes of immigrants, we tend not to think of the effect surges of migrants to the U.S. have on the logistics chain or commerce itself.

Jerry Pacheco is President of The Border Industrial Association. Jerry Pacheco's opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of KRWG Public Media or NMSU.

Jerry Pacheco is President of the Border Industrial Association and Executive Director of the International Business Accelerator.