PortandTerminal.com, April 9, 2019
Laredo, TX – President Donald Trump has threatened to close the southern U.S. border if Mexico doesn’t put a plan in place to stop illegal immigration into the United States. This article is about how that would play out in practical terms at the 2nd largest inland port in America.
The inland Port of Laredo
According to the United States Chamber of Commerce, nearly $1.7 billion in goods and services flow across the border every day. The border crossings at Laredo form one of 11 land ports along Texas’ 1,254 mile-long border with Mexico
Laredo is the number 1 inland port along the US-Mexico border. It also ranks No. 2 after the Port of Los Angeles in terms of the value of goods handled in the USA. In 2018, $235 billion worth of imports and exports flowed across the Laredo border (U.S. Census Bureau). Laredo has three international bridges, two of which are commercial bridges that 15,000 trucks use to cross daily.
From a trade perspective, the Port of Laredo is a critical American national asset and a choke point for trade between Mexico and the United States.
Security is more important to me than trade
In late March of this year, 750 Customs & Border Patrol (CBP) agents were pulled from their regular jobs screening cargo and vehicles along the Mexican border to help handle the surge of Central American families coming into the United States.
“Security is more important to me than trade,” President Trump said during an interview on April 2nd at the White House. “We’re going to have a slower border or a closed border.” he continued.
The result on the ground at key border crossings is that trade is slowly grinding to a standstill. “The shippers try to push as much freight as possible and, at the same time, you have fewer officers,” said Ben Enriquez, senior vice-president of Transplace, a Texas-based provider of transport management services. Trucks continue to face excruciatingly long wait times at border crossings between Mexico and the United States with waits of 7 hours not uncommon. The New York Times reported on April 5th of waits as long as 22 hours.
Business community pushes back
“Closing down the border would have potentially catastrophic economic impact on our country,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters Tuesday. “I would hope we would not be doing that sort of thing.”
The Texas Border Coalition, a group of mayors, county judges and economic development officials from the region, said closing the ports of entry at the border would create an economic crisis.
“President Trump’s threat to close the border would be catastrophic and immediate, not just for border communities but also for the nation as a whole,” said TBC Chairman and Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz. “Closing the border would cause an immediate depression in border state communities and, depending on the duration, a recession in the rest of the country.”
Facing widespread opposition, President Trump backed down last Thursday from his threat to close the southern border, instead of giving Mexico a “one-year warning,” but also leaving his administration with no clear path to deal with a record surge of migrant families.
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