CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico, April 11 (Reuters) – Mexican truck drivers blockaded two busy bridges at the border with United States on Monday amid rising tensions on both sides over an order by Texas Governor Greg Abbott that has slowed commercial crossings between Mexico and Texas.
“We’re desperate because we have to wait up to 15 hours to cross into the United States,” said truck driver Pedro Gonzalez as he and others protested at the Zaragoza bridge connecting Ciudad Juarez to El Paso.
Abbott ordered the state’s Department of Public Safety (DPS) last week to conduct “enhanced safety inspections” of vehicles as they cross from Mexico into Texas in order to uncover smuggling of people and contraband.
The inspections were part of a broader effort to deter illegal immigration, Abbott said.
However the order has infuriated industry groups and threatened to alienate even some of Abbott’s allies.
“We are supporters of Governor Abbott, but unfortunately we weren’t taken into consideration,” said Ernesto Gaytan, chairman of Texas Trucking Association, who said he’d been fielding calls from frustrated drivers since the order took effect.
Gaytan said migrants rarely tried to cross the border illegally via commercial trucks at legal ports of entry.
“Slowing down trade isn’t the solution.”
A Texas DPS spokesperson said that since Abbott’s order was issued, the agency had inspected nearly 2,400 commercial vehicles and taken 552 vehicles out of service for “serious safety violations” such as defective brakes, tires and lighting.
The spokesperson declined to say whether the effort had uncovered any smuggling attempts.
A second bridge, connecting the Mexican city of Reynosa to Pharr, Texas, was also blockaded by truck drivers.
Dante Galeazzi, president of the Texas International Produce Association, said the delays at the Pharr bridge alone had, since Friday, prevented an estimated $30 million of fresh produce from reaching the U.S. side.
“There are very likely to be store shelves devoid of fresh produce items this Easter holiday weekend,” he said, warning that prices would rise for consumers if the delays continued.
(Reporting by Jose Luis Gonzalez in Ciudad Juarez and Lizbeth Diaz in Mexico City, additional reporting by Ted Hesson in Washington D.C. and Laura Gottesdiener in Monterrey; Editing by Sam Holmes)