EL PASO — With a raging drug war that has left many in fear and confusion, the choice to move to the United States isn’t as black and white as some would hope. But for the individuals and families with money, moving to the United States isn’t just a choice, but a luxury they can afford.
Over the past year, businesses like Helados Trevly, Crisostomo Burritos and El Rehilete have opened in El Paso , making what some would call, a safer and smarter business choice. Eduardo Rios, a lawyer with Brown McCarroll L.L.P. in El Paso , said that his office has seen a considerable increase in inquiries from Mexican investors.
“There definitely are more people from Mexico looking for a safer place to live and work,” he said. “Wealthy clients need a safer place they can invest in and that’s why they come here.”
No one knows exactly how many families from Mexico have ended up in El Paso, but with area realtors and schools seeing a steady rise in Juarez families, their presence is undeniable. The Mexican consulate did not have any official count as to how many Juarenses have ended up in El Paso.
“I help people coming from Mexico who want to come to the United States and either bring in their business or invest in a company here,” said Kathleen Walker. “It’s not for everyone because it takes a lot of planning and consideration for someone to move their business over here.”
A Juarez family, who did not want to reveal their names, are set to open up an accessories boutique on the Westside later this year. The family said that if it weren’t for their lawyer and investment broker, their dreams of opening up a business in the United States may have never been possible.
“Of course we needed help from our lawyers to speed up the process, we couldn’t wait around,” they said. “With the situation in Mexico being as bad as it is, it’s like we would go into our shop everyday wondering if we’d be a victim. In the end, it didn’t matter how much the cost was, we couldn’t put a price on our safety.”
The owners are hopeful that once their business opens, they’ll be able to make up the money they spent on the move over.
“We hope to make money once we open because we did spend quite a good amount on our lawyers and on our business,” they said. “We want to be as good or better than the other businesses here because we need to make money.”
According to Walker, those looking to open up their own businesses usually opt for the business related non-immigrant alternative, E-1 and E-2 visas.
“When NAFTA came into effect, the E-1 treaty trader visa and E-2 treaty investor visas became available,” she said. “That’s usually the route most of our customers take.”
With an E-1 trader treaty visa, people have to be engaged in existing, substantial international exchange of goods or services. Applicants for the E-2 trader treaty visa must be involved in commercial enterprise.
Edward Rios, an attorney with Brown McCarroll L.L.P. in El Paso, said that if visa applicants are well prepared, the process of being reviewed and accepted is shorter.
“In the statutes, there are temporary and permanent visas,” he said. If you meet the E-2 requirements, the consulate gives you a visa and with that you can live and work in the United States for five years,” Rios said. “But if investors are well prepared with their business plans and seem committed, then the wait to receive their visa could be shorter.”
The owners of Crisostomo Burritos in El Paso, whom did not want their names released, said that while they didn’t have to apply for any work visas to open their restaurant here, they did have to go through a slew of sometimes difficult inspections.
“The health department I think was a lot tougher on us because our business is essentially from Juarez,” he said. “We had to be careful with every detail because we didn’t want to risk them not letting us open here.”
According to the owner, he knows of several other business owners from Juarez who are also opening up locations in El Paso for safety reasons.
“We were actually inspired to open our location because of the other restaurants,” he said. “But I do think that the violence in Juarez is driving people out, it’s not safe because of the constant demands that the cartels are putting on business owners.”
Bob Cook, president of REDCO, (El Paso Regional Economic Development Corporation) said that in the last year and a half, he too has seen an increase in the amount of people trying to bring their businesses across the border.
“I’d say that in the last 15-18 months, there have been at least 12-15 investors who have come to us from Mexico,” Cook said. “We are working with more individuals who are trying to do business in the states.”
As for future plans, Walker said she would like to establish a regional investor program for the border.
“I think it’d be great to create one of those for our border cities,” she said. “It will help out foreign investors who want to do business in the states. So right now, I’m trying to get that together with other people.”
The owners of the news boutique shop set to open say that they know of seven other individuals who plan on opening businesses.
“Some of our friends who have done well in Chihuahua have decided to move here as well,” they said. “Two of our friends are moving to Dallas to open up their restaurants and the rest are coming here. I think this is just the beginning because there are a lot of us who don’t want to have to sacrifice our good income or our safety, we want both.”
Click here to read the first part of these series by Cynthia Romero exclusive to Borderzine.com