MCALLEN, Texas (Nexstar) — An unlikely pairing of politicians both sharply criticized Gov. Greg Abbott’s new vehicle inspection initiative at the border, chalking it up to “political theatre” that’s further hurting an already strained supply chain.
On Tuesday, both Democrat Beto O’Rourke and Republican Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller called on the governor to end the policy which has been in effect for less than a week. Last Wednesday, Abbott announced a series of initiatives he said will increase border safety, in anticipation of an influx of migrants crossing the border once Title 42 ends in May.
O’Rourke, who is running to unseat Abbott in November, held a press conference from McAllen with local business owners who rely on Mexican imports.
“This is making a challenging situation for small businesses much, much worse,” O’Rourke said. “Greg Abbott is killing businesses and the Texas economy with the stunt that he’s pulling.”
Those remarks were reflected in an open letter Miller addressed to the governor Tuesday, who called it “misguided policy” that will result in empty grocery shelves and higher prices on products.
“Your inspection protocol is not stopping illegal immigration. It is stopping food from getting to
grocery store shelves and in many cases causing food to rot in trucks – many of which are owned
by Texas and other American companies. It is simply political theater,” Miller’s letter read.
Abbott was asked about Miller’s letter Wednesday during a press conference in Laredo.
“He [Miller] had no clue what we were doing, the negotiations that we had ongoing with regard to officials in Mexico. So he was just completely uninformed,” Abbott said according to the Texas Tribune’s Patrick Svitek.
Miller is asking Abbott to instruct state troopers to stop inspections of vehicles and to shift state resources toward defending Title 42 in federal courts. Title 42 was a Trump-era emergency health policy that allowed immigration officials to turn down migrants — even those seeking asylum — as means for preventing the spread of COVID-19.
As of Monday, the Texas Department of Public Safety reported 3,443 commercial vehicle inspections since the initiative began last week. Out of those, 807 commercial vehicles were placed out of service for “serious safety violations” including defective brakes, defective tires and defective lighting.
Since then, commercial traffic has slowed to a standstill along two ports of entry and parts of the southern border. On Monday, Mexican truckers blocked access to the Pharr port of entry in protest of Texas’ truck inspections.
“[This policy] does nothing to stop the traffic of illegal drugs. It does nothing to stop the smuggling of human beings. It does nothing to improve the safety or security of the people of Texas,” O’Rourke said. “All it does is hurt the economy of this community, of this state, and United States of America.”
In 2019, trade between Mexico and Texas accounted for more than $212 billion. In 2013, United States-Mexico trade amounted to $507 billion, with 66% of that moving by truck and accounted for nearly half of all trade between the two countries that year.
In a Tuesday news release, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol said the wait times at some border crossings are exceeding five hours, and called these inspections “unnecessary.”
“The longer than average wait times – and the subsequent supply chain disruptions – are unrelated to CBP screening activities and are due to additional and unnecessary inspections being conducted by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) at the order of the Governor of Texas,” the statement read.
Nexstar reached out to the governor’s office in request for comment on Miller’s letter, but has not heard back yet. Miller is one of the first Texas Republicans to break with Abbott on this policy, but has vocally opposed the governor in the past over COVID-19 policies. Miller is also running for re-election in November.