TORNILLO, Texas (Border Report) – Truck traffic at the Marcelino Serna port of entry in Tornillo shot up since the federal government stopped processing commercial cargo at El Paso’s Bridge of the Americas earlier this month.
The increase to an all-time high of 700 international truck crossings a day raised the hopes of local government officials, who see the Tornillo port as a potential source of income and catalyst for development in Far East El Paso County.
But those hopes are in jeopardy due to stringent inspections of trucks coming from Mexico by Texas Department of Public Safety troopers looking for drugs and unauthorized migrants just north of the port of entry. Trucks for the past two days have been idling for up to four hours on U.S. soil and the number of crossings has plummeted to 300.
“With the closing of (Bridge of the Americas) we were able to display the capacity of what can happen here,” El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego said on Tuesday. “It’s unfortunate that there is a double inspection and that is not going to add to this capacity.”
DPS last week resumed its controversial checks of trucks coming from Mexico. Industry experts say U.S. businesses lost billions of dollars when Texas Gov. Greg Abbott – frustrated over the Biden administration and the Mexican government’s inability to slow illegal immigration – last ordered border truck inspections in April 2022.
“They have not found drugs; they have not found migrants in the trucks, yet the inspections continue at a rate of 100%,” Samaniego said. “We know this is something political and a very aggressive attitude from the governor toward this region because of our philosophical differences. They don’t want any migrants to come and, if they do, they want to send them across without coordination with the other side (Mexico), and that’s not what we want.”
On Tuesday, a line of trucks at least a quarter mile long could be seen just north of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection inspection area of the Tornillo port. Several dark-hued DPS vehicles could be observed at the end of the line, routing one or two trucks to an empty field where troopers were checking trailers, cabs, engine compartments and vehicle tires.
Marcos, a truck driver from Juarez, Mexico, said he was finally able to cross the border on Tuesday after being stymied by the long waits at El Paso’s Ysleta Port of Entry Friday and Monday.
“We cleared U.S. Customs at 9:30 a.m. … it’s 1:30 (p.m.) now. I don’t know why it’s so slow,” he said. His cargo was headed to a distribution center in El Paso, and to factories in the interior of the U.S. after that.
County officials said the Marcelino Serna Port of Entry can spare Juarez from trucks coming from the interior of Mexico passing through the urban sprawl. It can also help alleviate pollution and truck traffic from the Bridge of the Americas in Central El Paso, where 600 trucks and thousands of passenger vehicles cross every day.
“We’re trying to push people who own businesses and maquiladoras (in Mexico) to look at Tornillo as a viable alternative to bring their goods across. Unfortunately, we drive up here today and we see that on this side of the border there is a huge backlog of trucks,” County Commissioner David Stout said.
He said he arrived at the port at 11 a.m., went out to lunch and returned at noon to see “the same exact trucks were in the same exact spot and the same exact DPS vehicles doing absolutely nothing.”
“I don’t understand what is going on,” Stout said.
Border Report reached out to DPS for comment and is awaiting a response.
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