The surge in migrants attempting to cross from Mexico to the United States is having a heavy impact on binational trade. Railroad companies have had to suspend routes to prevent migrants from boarding the trains, while authorities have opted to close customs offices in Chihuahua, causing delays for thousands of trucks transporting goods to the US. Business organizations in Mexico have estimated the economic effects of the latest immigration crisis, now in its second week, at over $1.2 billion.
According to COPARMEX, a Mexican business association, the temporary closure of some border crossings with Texas is causing serious harm to importers and exporters throughout the country, especially in the border states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León and Tamaulipas. “Take the Bridge of the Americas as an example. This bridge links Ciudad Juárez with El Paso, Texas, and currently has 1,500 stranded cargo trucks. The impact on the national economy is immense, with temporary closures resulting in daily losses of $35 million,” said a COPARMEX statement. This crucial bridge has been closed for eight days so far, and Eagle Pass, Texas declared a state of emergency in late September due to thousands of migrants overwhelming the city.
In response, Texas tightened customs inspections, resulting in a slowdown of up to 10,000 cargo trucks and a $1.2 billion in export losses according to Mexico’s freight truckers’ union (CANACAR). The union warns that customs closures, particularly in Chihuahua, will force truckers to seek alternative routes, pushing up transportation and logistics costs.
Migrants from other countries have always passed through Mexico, but recently there has been a noticeable increase. Eduardo del Río, CANACAR’s director of communications said that closing customs offices to stop border crossings has led to long delays for truckers of up to 10 hours. “Freight vehicles handle 83% of the value of exports and imports with the United States. The country has over 1.2 million freight vehicles just for the US,” he said.
The slowdown isn’t just limited to cargo trucks. Last week, Ferromex, the country’s main rail freight company, decided to suspend around 60 trains going to the US due to the thousands of migrants who were dangerously attempting to board. Most of the migrants are from Venezuela, Guatemala, Honduras, Ecuador, Haiti and El Salvador. Ferromex claimed that ensuring safety was impossible due to the overwhelming number of migrants.
Mexico’s National Migration Institute (INAMI) met with Ferromex executives to develop an emergency plan as the numbers of migrants continued to surge. INAMI resolved to place more federal immigration agents along train routes, while Ferromex will increase its own security forces and measures. Experts estimate Ferromex’s daily losses at 40 million pesos ($2.3 million).
Thousands of migrants doggedly persist in journeying through Mexico to reach the United States. Immigration offices in Tapachula near Mexico’s border with Guatemala are packed with asylum seekers, while stranded migrant caravans in Piedras Negras on the border with Texas wait for the trains to resume. If customs and border bridges remain closed, it will soon affect Mexico’s many maquiladora assembly plants for household appliances, motorcycles and auto parts. Newspapers in northern Mexico report that the maquiladoras are already planning alternative transportation routes.
The migrant crisis is disrupting binational trade just as Mexico emerged as the leading US trading partner this year, surpassing China and Canada. In the first half of 2023, Mexican exports to the US hit a record $236 billion, up 5.4% from the same period in 2022, per US official data.
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