Railroads Urge Border Officials to Reopen US-Mexico Crossings

Union Pacific and BNSF Railway Operate Trains in Affected Area
Mexican border
Mexican National Guard members near the Union Pacific International Railroad Bridge at the U.S.-Mexico border in Piedras Negras, Coahuila state, Mexico, on Oct. 7, 2023. (Alejandro Cegarra/Bloomberg News)

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Railroads are calling for U.S. Customs and Border Protection to reopen U.S.-Mexico rail crossings at El Paso and Eagle Pass, Texas.

The CBP temporarily closed the crossings on the morning of Dec. 18 and is moving more personnel to the areas after “observing a recent resurgence of smuggling organizations moving migrants through Mexico via freight trains,” according to a CBP statement on Dec. 17.

“The urgency of reopening these crossings and restoring rail service between the two nations cannot be overstated,” Ian Jefferies, president of the Association of American Railroads, said in a statement.

Union Pacific Corp. operates trains at both crossings and BNSF Railway Co., a unit of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., moves trains through El Paso. The two carriers combined run 24 trains a day through the crossings that carry agriculture products, automotive parts, chemicals and other goods, the association said.

Union Pacific said the crossings represent 45% of its operations between the U.S. and Mexico and that it doesn’t have enough capacity to reroute the train traffic. For every day the crossings are closed, almost 4,500 rail cars are delayed, which has ripple effects across the network.

“While the company understands this is a complex humanitarian crisis, most migrants are not crossing the border on trains,” Union Pacific said in an email statement. “The longer this closure is in effect, the more difficult it will be for cross-border trade to resume.”

Eagle Pass, which is about 150 miles southwest of San Antonio, was closed for about three days by the CBP in September.

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