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Groups urge reopening of southern border rail crossing closed due to smugglers

(The Center Square) – A coalition of business associations from 17 U.S. states are urging for a rail line along a highly trafficked area of the southern U.S. border to be opened back up. 

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection temporarily suspended the international rail crossings at Eagle Pass and El Paso, Texas, earlier this week amid the ongoing influx of migrants “in order to redirect personnel to assist the U.S. Border Patrol with taking migrants into custody.”

“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 Sunday. 

TCS - CBP personnel process and screen migrants

CBP personnel process and screen migrants using facial comparison software for possible entry into the U.S., May 31, 2023 in Brownsville, Texas. CBP Photo by Jaime Rodriguez Sr.

In a letter to CBP Acting Commissioner Troy Miller on Wednesday, business groups, including the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association, the Chemical Industry Council of Illinois and the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, requested the agency reverse the closure of the rail crossings in that area. 

“These closures are creating great economic harm to our nation’s manufacturers, farmers, and consumers, and these routes should immediately be reopened to protect commerce and prevent further damage to our economy,” the letter said. “The Eagle Pass and El Paso border crossings represent 45% of cross-border rail traffic for American rail carriers Union Pacific and BNSF. There is not enough capacity at other gateways to reroute the freight rail, especially with few days remaining before the Christmas holiday.”

Other organizations that signed the letter include the Arkansas Chamber of Commerce, California Manufactures and Technology Association, Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry, Indiana Manufacturers’ Association, Iowa Association of Business and Industry, Kentucky Association of Manufacturers, Michigan Manufactures Association, Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, Associated Industries of Missouri, Nebraska Chamber of Commerce, New Mexico Business Coalition, Oregon Business and Industry, Tennessee Chamber of Commerce, Utah Manufacturers Association, Association of Washington Business and Wisconsin Manufactures and Commerce. 

The letter also said that each day the rail line is closed, American railroads are forced to embargo goods on nearly 100 trains and 10,000 rail cars and are not accepting new shipments. 

“The closures are impacting a wide range of industries including grain, automobile, food and beverage, cement, chemicals, electronics, and more,” the letter said, acknowledging the need for a solution to the ongoing humanitarian crisis. “However, shutting down key entry points for commerce with our nation’s largest trading partner is not the answer.”

Railroads are doing their part, the group said, including using their employees, police forces and technology like X-ray systems to monitor freight. 

“Businesses and consumers in our states cannot afford … for manufactured products and agricultural commodities to sit during one of the busiest times of the year,” the letter said. “These two international rail crossings need to be immediately reopened.”  

A letter business groups from across the country sent to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency about the closure of rail lines along the southern U.S. border.

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