Monday, August 29, 2011

The new immigration

I've discussed immigration (both legal and illegal) on here several times before, but this article in the Washington Post from the weekend puts a bit of a new angle on the issue.
For years, national security experts have warned that Mexico’s drug violence could send a wave of refugees fleeing to the United States. Now, the refugees are arriving — and they are driving BMWs and snapping up half-million-dollar homes.
Tens of thousands of well-off Mexicans have moved north of the border in a quiet exodus over the past few years, according to local officials, border experts and demographers. Unlike the much larger population of illegal immigrants, they are being warmly welcomed.
“It goes counter to the conventional wisdom about the Mexican presence in the United States,” San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro said. The influx “is positive, it is entrepreneurial . . . and one of the keys to a very successful growing city like San Antonio.”
Castro estimates that Mexicans own at least 50,000 of the approximately 500,000 homes and apartments in his city of 1.3 million, which has a vibrant Hispanic culture. Many are in gated communities that have sprung up in the city’s sun-baked northern hills. One neighborhood built around a country club has so many residents from the Mexican city of Monterrey that it has been dubbed “Sonterrey.”...
“All these businesses are Mexican,” said Alejandro Quiroz, a Mexican-born businessman, sitting outside a Starbucks in Sonterra and gesturing to a bank and gourmet Mexican take-out shop. Women in designer sunglasses and high-heeled shoes left the Starbucks, chatting in Spanish.
“Generally, people come with capital,” Quiroz said. “They buy houses, cars. And then they say, I want to invest in a business.”
Interestingly, as the article notes, illegal immigration from Mexico has been steadily declining in recent years ("due to the weak U.S. economy, border crime and more opportunities for young Mexicans at home", says the article), even while it has dominated the political conversation.

In its place has come this new influx of affluent Mexicans, a group that we Americans would do well not to discount. As San Antonio's mayor noted (and I first mentioned toward the end of this post), immigrants have a tendency to be among our most entrepreneurial workers, and often help to push our economy forward rather than let it stagnate.

I think that this is another interesting data point in the broader discussion on U.S. immigration policy, and no conversation about immigration (illegal or otherwise) is complete without recognizing this dynamic. But then, I bet you won't hear Rick Perry crediting Mexican immigrants for Texan job creation any time soon...

[Washington Post]

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