Planning the Undocumented City: Unauthorized Immigrants and Planners in the 21st Century
Levin, Josh M.
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A demographic hallmark of the 21st century has been the increasing dispersion of foreign-born populations from traditionally multicultural “gateway cities” like Los Angeles, New York, and Miami to a wide diversity of US communities, whether urban, suburban, or rural. Approximately one third of these foreign-born individuals are estimated to be unauthorized, or undocumented, immigrants. They represent not only an undeniable presence but also, in many communities, a key component of the local economy. Undocumented immigrants remain, however, an extremely vulnerable population; not only are the majority low-income, have low educational attainment, and frequently confront a significant language barrier, they also face additional challenges specifically related to their precarious legal situation. Given the responsibility of planners to “seek social justice by working to expand choice and opportunity for all persons”, as mandated by the American Institute of Certified Planners’ Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct, what is our role in incorporating and addressing the needs of this controversial and vastly under-served population? How have planners conceived of this issue, and how have practitioners addressed or ignored undocumented immigrant communities in their actual, produced plans? The present report seeks to explore these questions.