EL PASO – New businesses and professionals resettling here from México have assimilated almost seamlessly into the local culture and economy in the last two years with the help and oversight of a close-knit network they formed to orient and advise them.
Known as La Red, the organization with 300-plus members aims to assist its new immigrant middle-class membership with business and legal advice. La Red includes business entrepreneurs, laywers, architects and other professionals. They help empresarios from Juárez transfer their businesses to El Paso using L1A visas. In 2010 L1A visas were issued to 5,000 Mexican business professionals, according to the U.S. state department statistics.
The L1A visa is a quicker way for professionals to establish residency for up to seven years and it allows them to bring children under the age of 21. La Red retains lawyers who can help with the proper documentation. Once issued the visa, they must prove that the business is succesful. The visa can be renewed every two years.
Luis Mauricio Esparza, president of La Red, said that by bringing together individuals with similar backgrounds and goals, Red members can become investors in each others’ businesses just as they did in México.
“I think there is a mistrust in certain areas of El Paso. Without a doubt this will pass in time. They will see the advantages and benefits of these institutions and their Mexican investors, and their contributions that will help El Paso to grow economicallya and socially,” Esparza said.
Twenty-five percent of the businesses associated with La Red faced extortion threats in México, where an estimated 3,000 businesses have shut down. Once here, La Red seeks to help them achieve success and integration into the community, Esparza said.
Businesses that have been established for years in Juárez and opened in El Paso tend to build up their clientel. La Choza, a restaurant operating for over 30 years, has managed to find success in its loyal customers.
“Our guests no longer feel comfortable crossing the bridge to México, and our job is to bring them a piece of Juárez and the memories they once shared. Our success is based off of the customer service we provide. Products like our meat and seasonings come from México,” said Omar Apodaca co-owner of La Choza.
The drug-war violence pushed Mexican businesses to seek refuge here, but some clients here say the americanized establisments left behind some of the real Mexican flavor.
David Cameron, born and raised in El Paso, said he feels that the bars that have crossed over from Juárez do not have the same ambiance as they did in México.
“I’ve been to Pockets in Juárez and El Paso. I like the idea of bringing some of the businesses here, but some vibes from the businesses are totally different. It’s more Americanized and they lack the friendly atmoshphere,” said Cameron.
The migration of businesses has helped El Paso post above average economic growth. When compared to the nation’s 100 largest metro areas, El Paso scored the 12th best growth rate in the first quarter of this year according to the Brookings Institution MetroMonitor.