Last week, Abbott (R) announced that state troopers would begin “enhanced” security inspections of commercial vehicles crossing the border, ostensibly to catch illegal immigrants and drugs. Now federal Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials already inspect vehicles crossing the border for human smuggling and potentially illicit goods. And Texas state troopers aren’t legally allowed to inspect these truckers’ cargo; they can only check for mechanical issues, such as faulty brakes, tires, or taillights.
Abbott must have known that his stunt carried risks. The amount of cross-border trade – in food, auto parts, retail goods – is enormous and has huge implications for the economy of the Lone Star State. About $9 billion worth of fresh produce alone — 1.28 billion pounds — crosses Texas from Mexico each year, according to the Texas International Produce Association.
But this is political theatre, after all, and the show must go on.
Amid all the other supply chain bottlenecks and shipping delays, drivers waiting to cross Texas have been pushed back miles. The typical wait at some border crossings, usually measured in minutes, exceeded five hours this week, according to CBP; some trucks are said to have been in traffic for more than 30 hours. These bottlenecks are not just a waste of time for drivers and businesses. Produce also breaks down in the heat, as idling trucks run out of fuel to keep fruits and vegetables refrigerated. Some truckers staged a blockade this week to protest unnecessary new inspection requirements, which are further scolding traffic. (The protests have since ended.)
The Post’s View: Greg Abbott declares war on international trade
Meanwhile, exports from Texas destined for Mexican markets remain untouched, waiting for empty trucks to reach them.
Even other Republicans have criticized Abbott’s policies, with Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller calling the inspections “killing the economy” and warning they will soon drive up produce prices, if products are available.
“Your inspection protocol does not stop illegal immigration,” Miller, an early supporter of Donald Trump, wrote in an open letter. “It keeps food off the grocery store shelves and in many cases rots food in trucks – many of which are owned by Texas and other American companies.”
Amid growing resistance, Abbott relented slightly on Wednesday and announced it was easing inspections at the Laredo-Colombia International Solidarity Bridge – but it is just one of 13 commercial crossings along the US-Mexico border.
It is tempting to characterize this as a particularly stupid policy. But in many ways, the path to this economic self-sabotage was laid long ago by other Republican politicians.
It’s not exactly unprecedented, after all, for a Republican governor’s administration to settle political scores by orchestrating traffic jams at crucial bridges. Perhaps Abbott, emulating officials before him, decided it was “time for traffic problems” in Laredo.
Or perhaps Abbott is hoping to fulfill Trump’s promise of eventual autarky, regardless of the economic consequences. Between that and the GOP-encouraged blockade of truckers at the Canadian border in February, the United States came close to executing Trump’s proposed experiment to block imports.
Or maybe Abbott is trying to outdo other 2024 GOP presidential candidates, who are striving to raise their national profile with increasingly ridiculous and cruel stunts that exploit immigrants and their children and other border issues. On the same day Abbott announced his commercial vehicle inspections, for example, he also said he would ship “illegal immigrants” on buses and charter flights to the nation’s capital. These are actually Venezuelans, Nicaraguans and others asylum seekers, who are waiting for their file to be processed.
Abbott’s first bus arrived in Washington on Wednesday. Coincidentally, the bus stopped to the right apart from building which hosts Fox News, NBC News and C-SPAN.
Or maybe Abbott, like many other Republican politicians, just thinks his constituents are stupid.
He could assume that angry voters will see pending traffic, empty store shelves and struggling businesses and blame President Biden, even if this latest contribution to supply chain problems is courtesy of the government’s own policies. ‘Abbott. If that sounds far-fetched, remember that Abbott and other Republicans tried to blame Biden for rising covid infections and deaths, even as those same politicians deliberately sowed mistrust in the regard to vaccines and undermined or outright prohibited efforts to increase vaccination and other covid prevention measures. measures.
If Abbott’s border policy is motivated by the latter of these possible explanations — if he assumes Texans are too dense to understand causation here — hopefully voters will be motivated to prove him wrong.