In Tow

Will Presidio’s transmigrante port impact Van Horn?

By Shanna Cummings

With the new commercial port of entry in Presidio, Van Horn might become the crossroads of the new transmigrante route.

Transmigrantes are Central American merchants who scour the US looking for used merchandise they can bring back to their home countries to fix up and resell. Some use their own vehicles, some drive commercial tractors to haul vehicle transport trailers. They travel all over the country, but they can only enter and exit in two places: Los Indios in deep south Texas, and now in Presidio. 

The Mexican government tightly regulates transmigrante travel routes. The merchants are not allowed to sell their merchandise in Mexico, only to travel through it on designated routes. At the ports of entry, the merchants submit paperwork and government officials inspect their cargo before sending them on. The process usually takes 72 hours, but during busy times may take longer due to traffic backup. Vehicles line up along the road for miles waiting to cross.

Mexico used to accept transmigrante traffic only at the Los Indios port. In March 2021, however, the Mexican government opened a new port of entry for transmigrante traffic in Presidio, to relieve the pressure at Los Indios. 

Businesses catering to transmigrantes – a familiar sight at Los Indios – have begun popping up in Presidio. Regular business also benefits. During the wait, drivers usually choose to remain in their vehicles, or they may rent hotel rooms. They eat at restaurants and buy groceries and gas, perform vehicle maintenance and look for entertainment.

Van Horn – at the crossroads of Hwy 90 and I-10 – may be in a position to gain a significant economic benefit from the new route.

Export agents Daniel Hixon and Elia Hernandez from the Los Indios port who specialize in transmigrante export paperwork recently approached the Van Horn Economic Development Corporation with plans for expanding their businesses at a location just outside Van Horn city limits on Hwy 90. They hope to provide export paperwork services as well as offer a safe location for customers to park and rest, hostel-style lodging for their customers and transportation into Van Horn so drivers can shop and eat. Future expansion might include shops and restaurants on location.

Merchants usually stop in Las Cruces, but Van Horn may offer a more convenient pit stop on the new route, Hixon said, especially since Las Cruces doesn’t have an export business like theirs. Drivers may not want to risk driving at night on U.S. 67, the two-lane highway linking Hwy 90 to Presidio, and may prefer instead to overnight in Van Horn while their paperwork is prepared.

“I really like Van Horn because it’s the one point where all the roads intersect,” Hixon said. 

With Van Horn at that strategic juncture of highways, the new route may mean more transmigrante traffic and business, as well as more job opportunities in the future. The EDC has discussed assisting Hixon and Hernandez with infrastructural costs at the site provided the businesses create a certain number of new jobs in the community.

While Van Horn thrives on interstate traffic, the town already struggles to find parking space for tractor trailers at the truck stops, EDC board president Becky Brewster said. The export business would provide space for customers on the 20 acres of land the business will inhabit, Hixon explained. However, not all transmigrante traffic will use that space if they choose to rest in Van Horn. In Presidio, some landowners along the route have created paid parking lots for trucks so drivers can sleep as they wait for their paperwork to go through, and room rental spaces for transmigrantes have also opened up since March.