The number of Mexican immigrants entering the United States has been on the decline in recent years. But one group of immigrants is bucking the trend: entrepreneurs.
Elizabeth Salamanca Pacheco teaches international business at Universidad de las Américas Puebla, one of the leading private universities in Mexico. This past summer, as a visiting scholar at Rice University’s Baker Institute, Salamanca conducted a series of interviews with Mexican entrepreneurs who had immigrated to Houston.
“We tend to assume that all these people are going to [the] United States due to insecurity, and it’s true that insecurity is a main push factor, but it’s not the only one,” Salamanca says.
At least as big a concern as organized crime is corruption. Nepotism and political patronage are rife, making it difficult for entrepreneurs to compete fairly.
Then there’s the Mexican tax code.
“Due to the last tax reform that we had last year in 2014 here in Mexico,” she says, “the system has become inflexible, so it’s very difficult to make deductions, for example.”
Another lure is one entrepreneurs have in common with more traditional waves of migrants.
“They are looking for a higher quality of education for their children,” Salamanca says, “and they have found that sometimes, even if they use public education, this has a higher quality than in Mexico.”
There’s a special visa program for entrepreneurs, the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program. Between 2001 and 2005, the U.S. granted 7,603 EB-5 visas to Mexican entrepreneurs. Between 2006 and 2010, it granted 31,066.
Such immigrants provide an economic boost to the communities they settle in, such as The Woodlands.
“The Mexicans are looking for houses. The Mexicans are looking for offices to rent. In most of the cases, they are not employing just Hispanics or Mexican people. They have a very diverse pool of employees,” Salamanca says.
There is a catch. These are, by definition, highly educated people who are looking to create jobs. The more such individuals move to the U.S, the fewer remain in Mexico to create jobs there. The lack of economic opportunities at home is one of the main reasons so many Mexicans have been willing to risk crossing the border illegally.