Regional + City Planning assistant professor C. Aujean Lee recently presented her research at the 2019 Association of European Schools for Planning conference in Venice, Italy. The research, which was also published in the Journal of the American Planning Association is entitled “Engaging Non-Citizens in an Age of Uncertainty.” The full article can be accessed here.


Problem, research strategy, and findings: Arnstein’s ladder has informed how planners redistribute power among constituents and increase citizen participation. Since the late 1960s, the non-citizen population has increased in the United States. This demographic shift has affected planning and community engagement because many immigrants experience disparate access to public goods and services more so than native-born residents. Non-citizens are also particularly vulnerable to shifting political landscapes due to citizenship status. I use 29 interviews with immigrant-serving nonprofits to identify unique challenges in serving non-citizen clients after the 2016 election. Immigrant nonprofit experiences are informative because they may be the first and only organization to provide non-citizens with services and resources in times of uncertainty. The interviews inform how planners can improve non-citizen engagement practices and redistribute political power. In particular, interviewees highlight how non-citizens experience barriers to public services and spaces due to fear of deportation and abrupt changes in their citizenship status. As a result, non-citizens are selective in how and where they engage. Thus, they connect to informal and formal spaces that may exist beyond their neighborhoods. These experiences also increase non-citizen dependency on nonprofits.

Photo provided by C. Aujean Lee