News & Reviews News Wire Despite phone call between presidents, two key U.S.-Mexico rail gateways remain closed

Despite phone call between presidents, two key U.S.-Mexico rail gateways remain closed

By Bill Stephens | December 21, 2023

President Joseph Biden spoke with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador today about border security issues

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Two of Union Pacific’s gateways to Mexico remain shut down today on orders of Customs and Border Protection. UP

WASHINGTON — The Eagle Pass and El Paso, Texas, railroad gateways to Mexico remained closed for a fourth straight day today — and there was no indication when freight might begin moving again despite a phone call today between President Joseph Biden and his Mexican counterpart.

Biden spoke with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador about how to jointly tackle border security matters amid another surge in migrants heading to and crossing the U.S. border. The next move: Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, and White House homeland security advisor Elizabeth Sherwood-Rnadall will meet with the Mexican president in the coming days “to discuss further actions that can be taken together to address current border challenges,” White House national security spokesman John Kirby said.

Customs officials closed the gateways — the second and third busiest rail border crossings — at 8 a.m. on Monday, citing the need to divert personnel to assist the U.S. Border Patrol with taking migrants into custody.

“CBP is continuing to surge all available resources to safely process migrants in response to increased levels of migrant encounters at the Southwest Border, fueled by smugglers peddling disinformation to prey on vulnerable individuals. After observing a recent resurgence of smuggling organizations moving migrants through Mexico via freight trains, CBP is taking additional actions to surge personnel and address this concerning development, including in partnership with Mexican authorities,” the agency said in announcing the shutdown.

Railroads insist that only a handful of migrants have used the railroad bridges or freight trains to cross the border illegally.

Freight, meanwhile, remains bottled up on both sides of the border.

“We understand that the federal officials are dealing with an unprecedented surge in migrant activity and the associated humanitarian crisis that comes along with that,” Ian Jefferies, CEO of the Association of American Railroads, said today in an interview with CNBC. “However at the same time we must strike the right balance that allows for freight to move north and south across the border safely and securely.”

It takes just a handful of customs officials to staff the rail bridges. The agents make very little difference in processing migrants, Jefferies says, but have a dramatic impact on the movement of cross-border freight.

Mexico this year overtook China as the largest trading partner of the U.S. Union Pacific and BNSF Railway interchange nearly two dozen trains per day with Ferromex via Eagle Pass and El Paso. The gateways handle roughly 45% of UP’s cross-border traffic.

UP says that every day that the border crossings are closed, it is forced to embargo customers’ goods on more than 60 trains, or nearly 4,500 rail cars, with an equivalent amount of traffic being held in Mexico.

Shippers have urged the White House to reopen the bridges. Members of Congress also have been increasing pressure on the White House to resolve the situation.

Commodities being held include grain held in six Midwestern states, beer brewed in Mexico, auto parts and finished vehicles, consumer goods, and industrial shipments such as metals and cement.

7 thoughts on “Despite phone call between presidents, two key U.S.-Mexico rail gateways remain closed

  1. I’m sure the TX National Guard or the army or the marines would be happy to assist with the trains or illegals crossing the border; just tell them what to do. On the other hand, this is a stupid move to close the rail gateways.

  2. Some are saying that this is somehow related to an effort by Mexico to get several Chinese companies to invest in the country. BYD is looking to build a very large EV battery manufacturing complex. I don’t think they have a relationship at all, but these are strange days.

  3. And the Mexican government allows these people, who are not Mexican citizens, to traverse the entire length or their country. Bring those jobs back home and screw the Mexican economy.

  4. Didn’t have this problem three years ago. The trains aren’t moving. Thus crews aren’t working. So the unions should be speaking up.

    1. The article does not mention unions. Enlighten us on what the position of railroad unions is regarding border security and illegal immigrants.

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