Thousands of trucks are stranded in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, and Tijuana, Baja California, as chaos at the northern border enters its fourth week.
The National Chamber of Trucking (Canacar) said yesterday that 15,000 trucks were stuck in the former city, where there are long lines at border crossings to El Paso, Texas, and Santa Teresa, New Mexico.
Long wait times at several ports of entry to the United States have been reported since March 28 – the day after U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced the reassignment of 750 border agents to deal with a large influx of migrants.
“It’s been catastrophic,” said Manuel Sotelo, a regional vice-president of Canacar.
He explained that the manufacturing industry in Chihuahua has incurred losses of around US $20 million a day since the delays began.
Sotelo, who is also the president of a Ciudad Juárez transport association, said he was told at a meeting with United States authorities that 100 border agents had returned to their port of entry posts, but most went to border crossings between Tamaulipas and Texas.
“We were confident that the [border] agents who were returning would come back to our area . . . but they were sent to Laredo,” he said.
Further complicating the situation in the Juárez area is that commercial border crossings are currently operating with reduced holiday hours even though Canacar requested that the normal schedule be maintained.
Lines of three, four and five kilometers were seen yesterday at the Bridge of the Americas, the Ysleta-Zaragoza Bridge and the San Jerónimo port of entry respectively. Sotelo said that trucks are waiting five hours on average to cross into the United States.
In Tijuana, long lines of trucks have been reported over the past two days due to the closure of commercial lanes at the border and an increase in Easter vacation traffic.
A report in the newspaper Milenio said there were lines as long as 10 kilometers in the border city yesterday.
Truck driver Miguel Ángeles said he would normally cross the border twice a day but now he can only cross once, and after a long wait at that.
Yesterday, he joined a line of trucks at 5:00am but didn’t cross into the San Diego area until 3:00pm. Average wait times at commercial ports of entry in the area have tripled to nine or 10 hours.
Another driver said his earnings had dropped by half in recent weeks as a result of the long border delays.
“In an economic sense, it’s hitting me really hard . . .” Francisco Javier said.
In an attempt to clear the congestion, commercial border crossings are operating with regular hours in Tijuana today but will close at 2:00pm tomorrow and Sunday.
Chihuahua Governor Javier Corral and other politicians, as well as representatives of several business groups, will meet with Foreign Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard in Mexico City on Monday to discuss the situation and consider their options to speed up cross-border trade.
Chihuahua government spokesman Mario Dena said Mexican authorities need to reach an agreement with their United States counterparts so that all personnel who were reassigned from ports of entry are reinstated.