To the Urban Planners of the World: Unite Against Trump (OPINION)

Aug 2, 2016
10:49 AM

EDITOR’S NOTE: A previous version of this essay was published here. Alvaro is a regular contributor to Latino Rebels and he gave us permission to publish this piece.

(Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

(Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

As an urban planning scholar and a son of Mexican immigrants, I implore all planning scholars, practitioners and students to stand up and take a position against Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for president of the United States.

I’m aware that some planning scholars and others will argue that we shouldn’t become partisan, taking sides in an election where the American people will elect the next leader of the most powerful nation in the world. However, as an independent, I counter that there comes a time in history when we must unite as urban planners (those of us who are experts on how communities, cities and regions function) and citizens/residents of this country to take a professional and moral stance. We must voice our collective opposition against a supreme Republican leader who once rejoiced over the prospect of a housing crises, proposed a deportation force to deport over 11.3 million undocumented immigrants and called for a ban on all Muslim immigrants.

These three examples, just to name a few, directly impact the diligent work of urban planners in both the public and private spheres.

First, urban planners have historically focused on housing issues, especially for the most vulnerable among us. For instance, after Jacob Riis published his class book, How the Other Half Lives: Studies among the Tenements of New York, published in 1890, emphasizing the deplorable living and working conditions of European immigrants and the poor in cities, it didn’t take long for government officials and future planners to seek housing solutions, such as housing codes that most of us currently take for granted. For Trump, as a real estate mogul, a housing crisis that negatively impacts millions of Americans and immigrants, such as the one we experienced during the Great Recession, represents a business opportunity to “go in and buy like crazy.” Should Trump prevail against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on November 8, we can forget about government intervening to assist working-class families, racialized minorities and immigrants with safe and affordable housing. For a President Trump, when it comes to housing and properties, it’s more about generating profits for his business interests and wealthy investors based on depreciated real estate values. For instance, will the Housing and Urban Development become an agent or a broker to facilitate business interests for The Trump Organization and his business partners?

Second, as for Trump’s deportation force that will arrest, detain and deport an estimated 11.3 million undocumented immigrants, will urban planners (along with architects, engineers, construction contractors, etc.) be recruited to design, build and implement the infrastructure for this proposal? More specifically, given that the Department of Homeland Security and private sector don’t have enough detention centers to house an additional 11.3 million undocumented immigrants, will urban planners, etc., become complicit in this cruel megaproject? Or, will President Trump use eminent domain —a powerful planning tool, where the government claims or takes over private property for the public good— to take possession of all football stadiums, baseball fields, soccer fields and basketball arenas, in addition to building new ones, to detain millions of undocumented immigrants? Yes, the same eminent domain that the City of Los Angeles utilized in the mid-1900s to displace the Mexican immigrant/Chicano barrio of Chavez Ravine to make room for Dodgers Stadium and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Third, Trump’s immigration proposal to ban an entire group of people based on their religion (Muslim), compromising of about 1.6 billion individuals worldwide, goes against our professional ethics, as stipulated by the American Institute of Certified Planners (ACIP): “We shall seek social justice by working to expand choice and opportunity for all persons, recognizing a special responsibility to plan for the needs of the disadvantaged and to promote racial and economic integration. We shall urge the alteration of policies, institutions, and decisions that oppose such needs.”

As a result, when a Republican leader like Trump targets all Muslims or makes racist generalizations about Mexican immigrants, referring to them as “drug dealers,” “criminals” and “rapists,” urban planners and planning organizations (e.g., academic, professional, student) must formally oppose these xenophobic and racist propositions. Given that historians and others (e.g., Writers On Trump) have also organized themselves against Trump, many more (non)professional and working-class groups, etc., should do likewise.

In short, given the recent violent attacks in Orlando, Paris, Istanbul and elsewhere against innocent people —where we are all vulnerable to terrorist acts— we must fight back against hate-driven proposals and racist rhetoric by American leaders, as epitomized by Trump. Trump’s fascist rhetoric, along with the GOP platform, only serves to incite more violence, domestically and internationally. Thus, instead of peddling fear and racism, as the world has become more interconnected through commerce, technology, social media and people on the move, we must all work to build “beautiful” bridges that unite us, not “ugly” walls that divide us.


Alvaro Huerta, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Urban & Regional Planning and Ethnic & Women’s Studies at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. He is the author of “Reframing the Latino Immigration Debate: Towards a Humanistic Paradigm,” published by San Diego State University Press (2013).