Planning in Idaho has historically neglected immigrant populations. The most notable instance of this is exemplified by the way Chinese immigrants were treated in the late 1800’s through the early 1900’s. The details of the mistakes made by Idaho in terms of Chinese populations is detailed in a blog by Stephanie Leonard. Planning has only recently begun catering to immigrant populations, but there is still room for improvement, especially in Idaho. The Latino population is the fastest growing segment of Idaho’s populous. It is important for Idaho to cater to this group and foster relationships early to create a positive relationship for future growth.
The United States has seen Latino populations sky rocket in the last 3 decades. The population was 14.6 million Latinos in 1980 and rose to 52 million in 2011. This is an incredible rise in a short period of time, and has had diverse impacts on the urban composition of cities across the U.S. In a blog by Emily Badger of theatlanticcities.com there are a variety of maps that visually represent this exponential growth, which is well worth the look. Between 2000 and 2010 Idaho realized a Latino population growth of 73%. If this trend continues, which all indicators suggest it will, this particular population segment will become ever more important. Idaho should take not of past mistakes and make sure to plan with the this population to create trust, and a built environment that is suitable to a diverse population.
There are important issues to consider when making steps to include Latinos in planning. In an article by Leonard Vazquez, one of the founders of Latinos and Planning, he outlines some issues and steps to be taken to promote Latinos in the planning process, that Idaho could benefit from. First, most of the issues that planners would consider the focal points in a conversation with Latino’s are not necessarily their top priority. Instead there are five points to pay attention to when bolstering Latino planning capacity: “The lack of participation in planning by Latinos; the relationship of planners and planning profession to Latino communities; the design and management of spaces and places are not meeting the social, economic or cultural interests of Latinos, the lack of capacity within Latino communities to engage in planning, current planning processes are not effective in Latino communities.” These approaches are not unique to the Latino community, it is suggested that minority-race planners have an enhanced ability to connect with minority populations, no matter what the minority-race may be. Providing opportunities for Latino planners in the Treasure Valley may be the way to fix the issues outlined by Leonard Vazquez.
Considering the potential for economic growth in the Latino community is also important. Instituting ways to help grow community based Latino small business could help strengthen the economy within the larger Treasure Valley. Vazquez highlights that “More than 70% of immigrants send about 10% of their income to their homelands.” If business ownership increased with the population it may encourage a portion of this income to stay in the community. In comparison with other minority groups such as Koreans, the Latino community has a much lower business ownership rate. There are some things that can be done on a federal level that can promote business ownership, but what can be done in the Treasure Valley? Here are a few ideas: A Latino oriented small business incubator, Latino oriented angel investments, small business workshops, and other organization such as META which provides training and loans for low to moderate income entrepreneurs and refugees.
Supporting and planning for the Latino community has some distinct benefits for the Treasure Valley. If population increases as it has in the recent past, this minority group will soon have an equal population, and it would be wise to create a good relationship in order to support the future health of our region. Idaho as a whole could benefit from some great things about Latino culture. From personal experiences living a significant portion of my life in the Arizona/ Sonora border region, there is a unique focus on family and community in the Latino regions that I am familiar with. Furthermore, if planners can learn from the national trends, and history there is a potential to harness a powerful economic force and community partnership.