After the threat of President Donald Trump’s tariffs, Mexican freight transporters are now facing a new challenge with an anti-immigration checkpoint in Ciudad Juarez that is stretching wait times up to three hours near the border.
Trucks and passenger vehicles traveling on the Chihuahua-Juárez highway heading north to El Paso are being delayed at a military checkpoint known as “Precos.”
The checkpoint, an hour south of the international Bridge of the Americas in El Paso, is part of Mexico’s promise to President Trump to crack down on the flood of migrants trying to enter the United States.
“The inspections are lasting up to two, three hours and are affecting around 750 trucks daily that arrive in Juarez with goods from maquilas in Mexico’s interior,” Manuel Sotelo, the president of the Association of Transporters in Ciudad Juárez, told FreightWaves.
“If one of these shipments arrives late to Juárez, then into the U.S., maybe (people in Mexico) lose a contract that could cost many their jobs,” Sotelo said. “We know that our government is very concerned; we have 45 days to give results to the United States so that they do not apply tariffs and we are working on solutions.”
U.S. authorities closed one of the international bridges in El Paso early Monday in response to migrants protesting on the other side of the border in Ciudad Juárez.
The protesters chanted “vamos a cruzar” — “we are going to cross” — before U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials closed the bridge about 2 a.m., reported CNN.
The decision to close the bridge came as “a large and unruly group formed on the Mexican side,” according to CBP spokesman Roger Maier.
Jerry Pacheco, president of the Border Industrial Association in nearby Santa Teresa, New Mexico, said the migrant crisis is unprecedented and something that almost reaches “9-11” levels.
“We are seeing waves of migrants rush the border trying to get across. If migrants are crossing in these numbers, there is no way we can process that many people with the resources we have at the border right now,” Pacheco said.
As part of the agreement reached June 8 to suspend tariffs against Mexico, President Trump and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador negotiated a 45-day period to review if the number of U.S.-bound migrants has dropped. A second review will take place in another 90 days. If the number has not dropped sufficiently, President Trump has said he could impose tariffs.
The effect the Precos checkpoint is having in El Paso trade is mixed, as freight volumes experienced fluctuations all last week. Outbound Tender Volume Index (SONAR: OTVI.ELP) was down almost 8 percent June 27, while at the same time the Outbound Tender Reject Index (SONAR: OTRI.ELP) was down almost 9 percent. This information comes from the FreightWaves SONAR platform.
Zach Strickland, a FreightWaves’ Market Expert, said that meant that carriers in the El Paso region were taking any load they could get. On June 28, both indices rebounded to be almost even.
Pacheco said they are also seeing longer crossing times because of the military checkpoints in Juarez. The Santa Teresa Port of Entry in New Mexico and the Bridge of the Americas in El Paso are within 20 miles of each other.
“We are seeing one to two hours sometimes to get goods across the border in Santa Teresa,” Pacheco said. “We still are a faster port than El Paso, which is taking longer. It is so unpredictable, you can’t tell how long it is going to take to get across.”
Pacheco said for supply chain managers, the unpredictable wait times at the international bridges along the border can be a “disaster.”
“You have to get product out at a certain time or it is going to affect your bottom line,” Pacheco said. “Our volume is actually up 17 percent in June year-to-year; once it gets across the border, we can move it. It’s just the Mexico side is taking longer.”
Sotelo said he understands that Mexican government officials are using the checkpoints to stop the flow of migrants into the U.S. as part of the tariff negotiations. But Sotelo has urged authorities to speed up the reviews of cargo trucks.
“First, they must do a better job of being expeditious in their reviews,” Sotelo said. “Another is that they can give more facilities to the companies certified as Customs Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (CTPAT) and Authorized Economic Operator (AEO), or put more personnel at the checkpoint, so that it does not take so much time.”
The Mexican government has adopted an AEO program as part of its commitment to the World Trade Organization (WTO). The CTPAT program is a voluntary partnership under the direction of the CBP’s cargo enforcement administration.
Last week, Mexican President Obrador began distributing 70,000 National Guard members across Mexico to help with the migrant crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, as well as protect Mexicans from rising rates of murder and other crimes.
Mexican authorities have been vague regarding the details of the National Guard’s border deployment, according to Mexican media reports.
It was reported that there are Mexican National Guard personnel deployed near the international bridges in Ciudad Juarez-El Paso, in Nuevo Laredo-Laredo and in Reynosa-McAllen.
It is not known at this time if Mexico will be setting up similar checkpoints at other international bridges similar to Precos near Ciudad Juarez.