EL PASO, Texas - For weeks, the El Paso County Sheriff's Office and county leaders have been trying to deal with parking problems around the Tornillo Port of Entry.
Mexico limits the amount of vehicles that can be imported in a day, leading to a backup of thousands of used and junked cars on the American side of the border. The Tornillo-Guadalupe port is the only port of entry where Mexican used car salesmen can import the cars they buy in the U.S. into Mexico.
Tornillo residents complained the thousands of used cars parked along their streets were making it difficult to drive around their town. Others said the cars were spilling oil and chemicals, while some said the Mexican used car salesmen often got into fights over their place in line.
For sheriff's deputies, it's been like playing whack-a-mole: putting a measure to deal with the backup of cars for export to Mexico in place, then having to deal with other situations as the problems shifted to other areas nearby.
There was a stark difference between the clogged roads before and the empty street shoulders after "no parking" signs were put up around the area weeks ago. More signs have been added or changed to allow limited parking next to the port of entry.
The parking problems became an issue in the overnight hours as exporters tried to get ahead of the line. Deputies now report they've been able to get it settled with more proactive enforcement during the day. It is no longer necessary to have overnight deputy overtime, scaling down from two deputies to one and now none.
The sheriff's office had a vehicle checkpoint in place near the port of entry for just an hour Monday, issuing 26 citations for things like no licenses or insurance.
"It's all about the enforcement aspect of it," said Commander Marco Vargas with the El Paso County Sheriff's Office. "Once we start enforcing, once we start issuing citations, once we start impounding vehicles, then there's a tendency for that kind of activity to disperse. So of course the responsibility, because we don't have anyone on overtime now, falls on the district units. So the district units are certainly out there patrolling, making sure no-one's out there parking. And if they are, we'll take the action that authorized."
There are also extra "no parking" signs coming for Alameda Avenue and other nearby roads. Deputies are working with the Texas Department of Transportation, which oversees those roads, to determine exactly where.