Los Angeles, CA – The recent decision by Mexican Customs to drastically trim the hours of operation at the critical Santa Teresa, New Mexico, port of entry “will help streamline the flow of international trade,” Mexican Customs officials have said, despite the fact that the move has created major gridlock.
Mexico’s Tax Administration began reducing hours in all its customs offices along the US border on July 4 in a move they said would “help them to better utilize staff, technology and infrastructure for the processing of merchandise.”
But Mexican citizens returning to Mexico with used vehicles purchased in the US through Santa Teresa say the new hours have them waiting in lines that stretch for a long as a mile for hours or even overnight to get across the border.
Drivers must hand over the vehicle title to US Customs and Border Protection for authentication at least 72 hours prior to export to prevent trafficking of stolen vehicles.
After that, the vehicle has to be exported within seven days. The increased congestion has been compounded by the fact that commercial cargo-carrying trucks going south have to share the same highway.
Inexpensive used and even damaged cars and trucks from the US and Canada are popular with Mexican consumers.
According to the Mexican Association of Automotive Dealerships, an estimated 7.5 million vehicles have been imported to Mexico since a NAFTA provision led to the border being open to vehicles in 2005. More than 226,000 were imported through May of this year, according to US Customs.
Santa Teresa, reports the Albuquerque Journal, is the only port of entry with a lane for processing vehicles and is thus considered one of the busiest ports of entry on the US-Mexico border.
Meanwhile, Customs and Border Protection officials said none of the same gridlock has been reported in ports of entry in California, Texas or Arizona.
Mexican Customs officials were not available for comment.