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US reopens key rail crossings between Texas and Mexico

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US reopens key rail crossings between Texas and Mexico © Reuters. Stranded freight trains are seen at a railroad yard after U.S. authorities closed rail bridges in Eagle Pass and El Paso, Texas, in order to redirect personnel to stem a surge in migration, in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, December 20, 2023. REUTERS/David Peinad

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The United States on Friday reopened two rail crossings between Texas and Mexico, five days after their closure in response to increased migrant traffic cut off a key export route.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said operations resumed at 2 p.m. ET at the international railway crossing bridges in Eagle Pass and El Paso, Texas. The closures had prompted alarm from railroads, the agriculture industry and some lawmakers over the economic impact to halted export trade.

The White House said the United States will be operating the crossings for 24-hour-a-day operations for the next few days. “We are grateful for Mexico’s cooperation to reduce migration pressure in these sectors and combat the smugglers placing migrants in harm’s way,” a White House spokesperson said.

Ian Jefferies, CEO of the Association of American Railroads, praised the reopening but said the closure should not be repeated.

“These ill-advised closures were a blunt-force tool that did nothing to bolster law enforcement capacity,” he said. “With the crossings reopened, railroads are focused on closely partnering with CBP to maintain the secure, reliable service that customers deserve and our nation requires.”

Growers, representing U.S. corn, milk, rice and soybean producers, among others, this week estimated that every day the crossings were closed “almost 1 million bushels of grain exports are potentially lost along with export potential for many other agricultural products.”

The Biden administration on Monday closed the trade routes due to increased migrant crossings. The U.S. Border Patrol apprehended about 10,800 migrants at the southwest border on Monday, according to an internal agency report reviewed by Reuters, which several current and former officials said was near or at a single-day record high.

Mexico’s foreign ministry said Friday the government “insisted on the need to reopen border crossings as soon as possible to guarantee dynamic trade flows and enhance the economic relationship” between the U.S. and Mexico.

Mexico’s main farm lobby CNA expressed relief over the reopenings, saying “the lack of supplies in Mexico, caused by the closures, was affecting food production, raising costs and putting food security at risk in the country.”

The National Grain and Feed Association and the North America Export Grain Association welcomed the reopening. “Any closure of crossings into Mexico is unacceptable and significantly impacts the flow of grain and oilseeds for both human and livestock feed to one of the United States’ most important export markets and trading partners,” they said.

The CBP said on Friday that Eagle Pass vehicular processing remained suspended along with San Diego San Ysidro’s Pedestrian West operations. In addition, port of entry operations at Lukeville, Arizona, and Morely Gate in Nogales, Arizona remain suspended.

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