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  • Trucks wait in a long queue for border customs control to cross into U.S., caused by the redeployment of border officers Ciudad Juarez, Mexico April 2, 2019.

    Trucks wait in a long queue for border customs control to cross into U.S., caused by the redeployment of border officers Ciudad Juarez, Mexico April 2, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 3 April 2019

Transportation was halted for up to 12 hours at ports of entry from Mexico into the U.S. Tuesday.

Freight truck drivers heading across the border from Mexico into the United States found themselves at a standstill Tuesday for over eight hours as a result of a massive border patrol agent reshuffle. Crossing the U.S.-Mexico border between Tijuana and San Diego was taking up to 12 hours at some points.

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Mexico's foreign minister, Marcelo Ebrard, said Tuesday that commercial traffic between Ciudad Juarez in Mexico and El Paso in the U.S. was affected by slow vehicle crossings as the U.S. administration under President Donald Trump relocates some 750 Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents. Authorities there say the measure was implemented to streamline procedures and accommodate the potential influx of Central American asylum seekers at the border, reports Reuters.

Mexican Foreign Relations Minister Marcelo Ebrard at a Tuesday press conference said: "If we cannot normalize very soon (...) it will cost us economically to the two countries. We are talking about one of the borders that has the greatest flow between the two countries," referring to the Ciudad Juarez-El Paso crossing.

Mexico does not act on the basis of threats. We are a great neighbor. If not, the million and a half of Americans who chose our country as a home wouldn't be here, that's the largest community of that origin outside the US. For them we are also the best neighbor they could have.

The minister added, "Until today we have had a good dialogue (with the United States), they have explained what they are doing."

On March 27 the CBP announced it would “shift … resources and personnel” and establish “new processing facilities, including a planned center in the El Paso area (for the) care and custody of migrants.”

The agency added: “This … will have a detrimental impact at all Southwest border ports of entry. CBP will have to close lanes, resulting in increased wait times for commercial shipments and travelers," warned the administration last week.

In the same communique, CBP Commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan is quoted as saying the government institution is facing what it called a “humanitarian and border security crisis all along our Southwest Border.” McAleenan said that “nowhere has that crisis manifested more acutely than … in El Paso.”

The commissioner announced from the Texas border city it had in its custody “3,500 migrants,” 1,000 of which took place March 25 alone. “The vast majority are families from Central America,” said McAleenan.

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“Nationwide, CBP had more than 12,000 migrants in custody” the last week of March, what the commissioner called “unprecedented.”

President Trump’s threats about shutting down its southern border have gotten increasingly louder since last Friday, afraid of the estimated 2,500 Central Americans asylum seekers currently travels northward through Mexico to seek haven in the U.S. The refugees are trying to escape extreme poverty, unemployment, and death threats in their own countries, as well as reunite with loved ones in the U.S. who previously migrated.

“If they don’t stop them, we’re closing the border. … We’ll close it. And we’ll keep it closed for a long time. I’m not playing games. Mexico has to stop it,” said the U.S. head of state said pushing off responsibility for the asylum seekers to Mexico while talking to the press in Florida last Friday.

The U.S. government says it’s looking into how they could close the over 2,000 km long border with Mexico, while keeping open commercial truck lanes, according to the Business Insider. Yet, experts say this would illegally cut off movement for citizens on both sides of the border.

Stephen Yale-Loehr, a professor at Cornell Law School, adds that shutting down the border would increase undocumented crossings because asylum seekers wouldn’t have access to the status at regular ports of entry.  

"This is just a measure of pressure, of blackmail done by the government of the United States," cargo truck driver, Jose Cota told Reuters while waiting in Ciudad Juarez. "They are affecting third parties," said Cota.

The Mexican foreign minister said that Mexico’s president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, is prepared to respond if President Trump follows through with the border closing, but said Monday he has to act with “peace, love (and) prudence” to the situation the U.S. president has incited at the frontier the two countries share.​​​​​​​

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