Tag: Humphrey School of Public Affairs

There, but Not There: Planning Communities for Undocumented Residents – An Interview with Fernando Burga

There, but Not There: Planning Communities for Undocumented Residents – An Interview with Fernando Burga

The Institute for Diversity, Equity, and Advocacy (IDEA) is proud to present these profiles highlighting our faculty’s outstanding research and community engagement around grand challenges.

by Amelie Hyams

Many of our communities have large populations of undocumented people. Assistant Professor Fernando Burga explores, how can we plan for them?

Burga researches and teaches in the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. He carries out community-engaged work focused on how urban planners can include immigrant groups in their planning practices. In addition to trying to find answers that work towards building inclusive communities, he investigates food justice in urban planning.

Urban planners, “make spaces where multiculturalism is celebrated.” Primarily they concern themselves with residents who are citizens, have property rights, and can advocate for themselves.

In certain locations, urban planners must also consider the presence of undocumented residents because they likewise impact planning systems for housing, transportation, school infrastructure, and issues related to public health.

Burga sees undocumented residents as a unique consideration for urban planners because, “Urban planning practice doesn’t know what to do with them.” Undocumented residents are part of our communities. They work and live with us but they are not citizens. Urban planners don’t plan cities for them and traditionally they are not part of envisioning a city’s future. As Burga puts it, “They are there, but NOT there.”

Urban planning is perpetually evolving, according to Burga. “There are changes in demographic makeup of our cities that push urban planning into new directions.” Part of this evolution is seen in considering how undocumented residents are perceived, included and excluded in community life. Some cities already have policies that address the situation, to an extent. Sanctuary city policies are an example of this. Other cities are catching up, yet, other cities actively pursue ordinances to exclude undocumented immigrant life.

“The truth is that cities need undocumented immigrant life – because they provide cheap labor that nobody wants to do. Government policy and the reality of people’s lives on the street are disjointed.”

Undocumented people endure an experience that is very different due to legal inclusion or exclusion. According to Burga, living an undocumented status “is also embedded with questions of power, capital, and knowledge in being able to do this. Becoming a citizen is a very hard thing. It represents a huge investment.”

Citizenship is also a very specific right. “It’s belonging to the nation state and being a part of the political community of the nation state. You get that right by either being born in the nation state or by becoming a citizen.”

“The capacity to bear citizenship rights is key and has been part of our progress as an inclusive nation.” However Burga believes that special considerations exist in accessing those rights.

Those with money, knowledge and connections have an advantage in navigating the process. “The immigration system also has perks and openings for people who may invest in US soil, to become citizens faster. So there are all these interesting ambiguities in regards to who can access citizenship.”

For Burga, “the question of undocumented immigrant life is central to cities because it challenges normative assumptions at the core of urban planning practices.” Burga explores “how urban planning can become a platform for advocating the formation of citizenship, other than being born here or having acquired citizenship through a legal process.”

In addition to legal citizenship, Burga recognizes the possibility of “urban citizenships”. These are “types of citizenship that uphold political and civic participation at a neighborhood or city level.”

He asks, “What if we consider the cultural, economic, and political contributions that undocumented residents make toward their communities as platforms for community benefit and citizenship? ”

Is there push-back around the idea of focusing on undocumented people when planning for communities?

“Yes. I think the push back regarding the illegality of undocumented life needs to be considered. But we should not demonize ordinary people doing their best to forge contributing lives. Rather we should consider how we can improve the current immigration system to direct undocumented residents towards the attainment of a legal status”.

Burga explains that there are some neighborhoods, cities or districts, here in Minnesota as in other states, where there is a “concentration of [undocumented] residents living, working, consuming, contributing and negotiating their lives within the community”. In these communities, “it becomes contingent to think about how planners can negotiate that ambiguity regarding undocumented people, to advocate for them– or not.”

“There is a long tradition in planning called advocacy planning, in which planners advocate for underrepresented communities,” says Burga. That tradition continues today, but with new challenges.

Burga is co-researcher with Tom Fisher in the College of Design on a project called – Drawing to Bridge the Gap, through a grant from U of M Extension. The project explores the challenges Latino families face in attaining educational success. This research addresses issues like transportation, school environment, housing conditions and other place-based concerns. Using design-thinking methods allows the families to advocate for themselves.

Aligning this research scope with efforts addressing food justice, Burga also investigates food access through the lens of race, equity, and immigration. This work is complex, so Burga works with community groups that engage food system issues from the perspective of racial justice. “The Twin Cities is a very vibrant place for this work.” He cites the work of Saint Paul’s Urban Garden Alliance as a key example.

“The work of urban planners involves all of these questions. Where things get placed and why, are planning questions. They are also questions that are embedded with power and who decides who we give precedence, in terms of decision making.”

Burga is eager to be involved in this evolution of urban planning. “I’m happy to be a witness and an ally – to get myself in tricky situations and negotiate my role as a Latino, a planner, and a scholar; to learn, grow, and move forward.“

Photo credit: Bruce Silcox

Advertisements
Humphrey School – Placing Diversity and Equity at its Core

Humphrey School – Placing Diversity and Equity at its Core

The Diversity Community of Practice (DCoP) is pleased to present the Humphrey School’s Diversity Strategic and Action Plan as our next Appreciative Inquiry.

We see this as a great example of a college advancing equity and diversity internally as well as externally. Already generally aware the School has been doing some work towards improving equity and diversity, we reached out to Laura Bloomberg, Associate Dean of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, to learn more.

By providing answers to our questions, Bloomberg offered insights on Humphrey’s Diversity Strategic and Action Plan and about recent actions taken by the School toward recommitting to equity and diversity efforts.

Our Questions
Because of who they are, the Humphrey School is specifically called upon to lead in the area of public affairs. How does the Humphrey School describe their role in this area? Why did you feel there was a need to call out Equity and Diversity as part of the School’s strategic plan?

Tell us about the School having recently invited Glen Singleton to present “Courageous Conversations.” How have these conversations impacted the Humphrey School?

We wondered about recent events around racial inequity in the public realm that have produced deep concerns around policing and the community. How is the Humphrey School engaging in these dialogues?

Mission and Strategy

Bloomberg began by explaining the mission of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, which is to inspire, educate, and support innovative leaders to advance the common good in a diverse world. “Quite frankly, as a school we believe the very mission of the School offers a mandate to make equity and justice central to our work”. 

As part of its mission the Humphrey School recently released a strategy refresh” document that outlines their core focus areas for the next 3-5 years. Equity, diversity, and justice factor significantly into every priority area identified: 

  • Promoting Hope, Opportunity and Inclusion in a Changing America and a Changing World
  • Supporting the Institutions of Democracy and Civil Life
  • Expanding our Global Reach and Impact
  • Strengthen the Pipeline of Talented and Diverse Leaders

(Read the complete strategy statement to learn how Humphrey School is working forward in each of these areas.)

Courageous Conversations

Bloomberg told us how the Humphrey School is striving to make equity and diversity “everyone’s everyday work” through the efforts of their Diversity Committee, the Neighborhood Engagement Committee, and their regular Courageous Conversations dialogue series. 

These Courageous Conversations invite the entire Humphrey School community (all staff, all faculty and all students) into regular informal lunchtime dialogues about race, equity and justice.  

Bloomberg feels, “This creates opportunities for all to step outside of our policy research, teaching, learning and theorizing and to personalize the work of equity and justice in the world.”

Courageous Conversation CompassThe Courageous Conversation Compass identifies four primary ways that people deal with racial information, events, and/or issues:

  • emotional,
  • intellectual
  • moral
  • relational

The compass points are used to anchor the conversation. They help people to reflect on their feelings, beliefs, need for action or knowledge-based perspectives.

Participants are encouraged to discuss questions candidly and with respect to one another, engaging honestly and productively in conversations where people may hold differing views. Everyone gathers around four agreements:

  • Stay Engaged. Listening for your partners’ benefit, not just for your benefit. Modeling the listening behaviors that you seek.
  • Speak Your Truth. Having the courage to share your experience/perspective and asking questions of your partners that will encourage them to share theirs.
  • Experience Discomfort. Searching out experiences/perspectives different from your own. Having the courage to ask your partners to ask questions of you.
  • Expect/Accept Non-Closure. Not looking to solve/answer all the questions. Not looking for the solution/answer. Looking for a different question that will help us find a different solution.  

Community Engagement

Bloomberg shared that most recently, the Humphrey School community gathered and used these protocols to discuss matters related to immigration and refugees. “Specifically,” explained Bloomberg, “we grappled with these questions:”

Who deserves to be an American citizen and who doesn’t? Who gets to decide?
How does one speak “the truth” about something when your community does not typically support it?

Another instance of the impact of these talks came from a fellow DCoP member who was present at the conversation held after the tragedies of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philando Castile’s shooting in Falcon Heights in July 2016.

She described how members of the Humphrey School community and some members from the larger U community gathered in grief and solidarity in a Courageous Conversation. Emotions were high. Some people were visibly in tears. They spoke to their sense of loss and outrage about the events and about the systemic change they wanted to see.

She feels this model for authentic deliberation and discussion provided a framework and method for addressing these difficult topics. It is “a steadying handrail of sorts” as the University community navigates recent national and local events that have affected our climate.

Measurement

As part of our Inquiry, we also reached out to Darren Hoff, Human Resource Manager with the College of Pharmacy, to provide a few additional questions from a different perspective.

Hoff wondered about how the Humphrey School measures progress in this area. Joel Mixon, Senior Academic Advisor for the Humphrey School, provided answers.

Hoff:  What are the goals for the initiative and how are they being measured?
Mixon: The goals for the initiative are to provide the Humphrey School with the opportunity to engage in college-wide programs, events and collaborations that support and enhance the school’s mission. They are being measured by student, faculty, and staff surveys and evaluations.

Hoff: What are your expectations for employee action? 
Mixon: Our expectations are that employees participate as they are able, based on work schedule and professional development goals.

Hoff: Are employees being rated or is this incorporated into the performance review process?  
Mixon: Employees are able to speak to their contribution, participation, and engagement in Humphrey diversity and equity-related development opportunities in the annual review process.

Encouraging faculty and staff to actively engage in efforts around equity and diversity is another example of how the Humphrey School is making equity and justice central to their work.

——
This DCoP Appreciative Inquiry was a collaborative effort by DCoP members: Laura Bloomberg, Joel Mixon, Darren Hoff, Virajita Singh and Amelie Hyams.