Peso Power

by Published on
Banco de Mexico

The United States has become awfully hostile to immigrants crossing its southern border in recent years—unless you have money.

Wealthy Mexicans fleeing the security crisis there have helped make the Texas border economy the strongest in the nation. The Brookings Institute reported recently that the McAllen-Edinburg-Mission metropolitan area ranked first in job creation among the nation’s 100 largest metro areas.

The power of the peso hasn’t been lost on Texas’s border communities. Cities up and down the Rio Grande are doing everything they can to encourage more Mexicans to invest and open businesses in Texas. This month, the Weslaco Economic Development Corp. (EDC) petitioned the Department of Homeland Security to allow Mexican nationals to land private planes at the municipal airport. Passengers could call ahead and have their landing expedited by U.S. Customs.

“If you are in Mexico City you would call Progreso Bridge and say, this is our credit card number, this is our plane, this is who is on it,” Hernan Gonzalez, the Weslaco EDC executive director, told the McAllen Monitor. “They would already be in a registry … and then the officers would come and clear you based upon when you are going to land.”

In nearby McAllen, the influx of exiles eager to start businesses prompted the city’s economic development corporation to petition the U.S. government for a regional center to provide investment visas faster. Mexicans who invest $500,000 or more in a company that creates a least 10 jobs can obtain U.S. residency in a matter of months, bypassing the lengthy immigration backlog.

The role Mexicans have played in rescuing Texas’s economy during a tough economic recession isn’t acknowledged enough in the ongoing immigration debate, says Keith Partridge, president of the McAllen Economic Development Corp. “Our area was the first in the nation to return to prerecession economic levels,” he says. “A lot of that was due to investors from Mexico.”

Melissa del Bosque joined The Texas Observer staff in 2008. She specializes in reporting on immigration and the U.S.-Mexico border. Her work has been published in national and international publications including TIME magazine and the Mexico City-based Nexos magazine. She has a master’s in public health from Texas A&M University and a master’s in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin.