The typical view of an immigrant in this country is not far removed from the image of thousands of people pouring in to Ellis Island in the early 1900s -- people with little money to their names and big dreams of making their fortunes in America. That view is still true in many ways, but it’s also true that many of today’s immigrants are well-to-do international elites. For instance, in Miami -- long associated with Cubans arriving by raft -- there are now a lot of rich South Americans. West Coast cities like Seattle and San Francisco have many affluent East Asians. Houston has wealthy Indians, New York City many Russian tycoons, and so on. These immigrants bring financial and human capital. But are cities leveraging their immigrants, and their broader connection with certain countries, to generate growth locally?
The answer varies, but one successful example has been the relationship between San Antonio and Mexico. Their ties run deep; Texas was a part of Mexico until its independence in 1836. Since then, San Antonio has attracted Mexican immigrants. But as crime has risen in Mexico in recent years, there’s been a professional-class exodus of Mexican nationals to affluent northern San Antonio.