“All southern ports are working the same,” the Laredo Licensed U.S. Customs Brokers Association said in regard to lane reductions for commercial traffic at ports of entry.
While U.S. Customs and Border Protection continues to reallocate officers from ports of entry along the southern border to handle the influx of immigrants entering the country, customs brokers in the region are working with their importers to manage through the traffic slowdowns.
“No need to port shop, all southern ports are working the same,” said the Laredo Licensed U.S. Customs Brokers Association in a status update on Wednesday for its members. “[CBP] are being consistent, small ports have even less personnel.”
The CBP personnel reassignments, which currently includes up to 750 officers or 15 to 20 percent of the agency’s workforce along the southern border to assist the Border Patrol, have resulted in lane closures, as well as daylong closures on weekends at certain smaller ports of entry.
At Laredo, Texas, the southern border’s largest port of entry in terms of cargo, the truck lines on the Mexico side have grown as they approach the World Trade and Columbia Solidarity bridges.
The Laredo Licensed U.S. Customs Brokers Association noted on Wednesday that out of 15 lanes for the World Trade Bridge that six are open for regular cargo and three for the Free and Secure Trade (FAST) program. At the Columbia Solidarity Bridge, there are two regular and one FAST lane open.
According to the association, CBP at the World Trade Bridge processes about 8,000 northbound truckloads daily, but is currently processing about 5,000 daily northbound truckloads with the current CBP staff shortage. The Columbia Bridge usually processes 1,700 northbound truckloads but is now processing about 1,000 of those trucks a day.
At Laredo, the average time for a northbound truck crossing is four hours from the time the trailer arrives at the Mexican toll booth to reaching the CBP primary lane. “That does not count the line on the Mexican side, which can be a couple of miles long. This is being measured manually by CBP at all ports,” the Laredo customs brokers association said.
Southbound trucked shipments at the two bridges and northbound FAST shipments, in addition to rail shipments, currently are not experiencing delays, the association said.
CBP at California’s Otay Mesa port of entry said on April 1 that it will operate eight out of the 10 truck lanes for the inspection and processing of imports and conveyances from Mexico.
“The indefinite reduction of processing lanes at the Otay Mesa commercial facility is due to [the CBP officer] deployment. As such, we will be unable to extend the hours of operation impacting our ability to provide services after our regular closing times,” the agency’s Otay Mesa operation said in a statement.
Some small CBP ports of entry have already announced that they will be closed on weekends, such as the Mariposa commercial facility at Arizona’s port of Nogales and Eagle Pass, Texas. On Wednesday, the CBP port of entry at El Paso, Texas, announced that the Bridge of the Americas import lot will be closed on Saturdays “until further notice.”
While cargo operations at CBP’s Laredo Field Office ports of entry extend from Del Rio to Brownsville, Texas, are currently operating fewer truck lanes, the agency emphasized on Wednesday that “normal cargo hours of operation remain in effect at all eight Laredo Field Office ports of entry and there are no plans at this time to reduce weekend hours.”
David P. Higgerson, CBP’s director of field operations for the Laredo Field Office, said in a statement,“We appreciate everyone’s patience and recommend they monitor border wait times through various sources so they can get the latest information.”
Higgerson added, “As events unfold, we will continue to communicate with our partners and travelers to keep the community up-to-date of any changes to operations or services at the ports of entry.”
Meanwhile, the Laredo customs broker association told its members to “advise your clients to take advantage of crossing as early as possible to avoid further delays.”
Across the southern border, it’s estimated that U.S. trade with Mexico exceeds $1.7 billion daily. At noon on Thursday, President Donald Trump reportedly said he would not close the southern border to both passenger and commercial traffic, which he had threatened to do late last week in protest with Mexico over the sudden arrival of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border from Central America.
“Closing the border for any length of time would result in significant supply chain disruptions for U.S. retailers,” warned Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the National Retail Federation, in a letter Thursday to senior White House officials. “These disruptions would reverberate throughout the supply chain, impacting everyone from truckers to warehouse workers whose jobs depend on the two-way trade with Mexico. The end result would be job losses, factory shutdowns, increased consumer costs and reduced product availability across the country.”