The Right Hand of an Immigrant

v i s u a l i z i n g   i m m i g r a n t   P h o e n i x

Yerena Hernandez

March 2018

Migrants are hard-working people with immense hopes and dreams, some that they feel that they can never reach. Without hesitation migrants will work hard through sweat and pain. That is, they aspire to have the American dream lifestyle, maybe even the chance to say they are one of them Americans. The right hand of a migrant is the grassroots organizations that strive for fairness.

What is CASE?

Central Arizonans for a Sustainable Economy (CASE) is a grassroots non-profit organization operating in Phoenix. Its focus is on political issues, immigrant and refugee rights, and on keeping up with industries to ensure wages are appropriate. Not only is CASE involved but unions like Unite Here, Local 11 and UFCW99 are part of this organization as well. CASE, in particular was founded by OneArizona, a table of non- partisan and empowering Latinos, after the anti-immigrant bill SB1070 was proposed by the Arizona Senate, to lobby against this bill that would negatively affect the immigrant members of these organizations.


In 2015, former president Barack Obama announced the expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) to include the parents of US citizens and lawful permanent residents, a new program that never went through because the courts stopped it. However, this is when CASE decided to now make citizenship its main focus point. For the past three years with the help of unions and volunteers, CASE has reached four hundred citizenship applications per year and continues to push for more each year. I have volunteered with CASE since September of 2017, and have observed some of the dedicated staff members run this organization.


Emmanuel Gallardo, the CASE membership and service coordinator, is one of the friendly faces one can catch there. I asked Emmanuel why he got involved with CASE Emmanuel explained that being part of an immigrant family himself and seeing how hard his own family worked got him where he is today. Through his father’s journey he watched and learned that workers were helped by unions. In this sense, their family was able to go from a lower economic life to the middle class, of America. Emmanuel was able to attend a better school and have a better life.


Emmanuel is part of CASE because unions have many resources for immigrant workers. He enjoys being part of political actions and being able to exercise his rights. His association with CASE lets him give back to people as others have done for him. As a child of immigrants, CASE has given him the gift to feel empowered.


Edwin Galan, also takes an important role at CASE as the immigration coordinator. His involvement began with Adios Arpaio, after both of his parents were deported back in 2008. Edwin began as a volunteer himself working on canvasing and leading the immigration center. He was fortunate to attend the National Immigration Integration Conference (NIIC) where he received a broader knowledge on immigration. He learned things such as migrants leaving due to asylum, fear and property. Others leaving important roles back in their country to come to the US and start new with nothing. Edwin, like myself has been part of CASE, because he enjoys and takes pride in offering his support. I can testify that he has great leadership skills and will continue to lead CASE into bigger success.

A day at case

I volunteered with CASE because I knew I wanted to be part of the last step of a migrant’s transformation into a US resident and a citizen. A client walks in unsure of the steps towards citizenship but with the hopes of leaving with guidance towards, a permanently being a part of this country. Clients from Mexico, the Middle East, and Africa sit with CASE volunteers like me and talk about why they want to be citizens and tell us their migration story of coming to the US. They come to a new country without much, but have hopes of building their lives here and contributing to the US.


When their appointment is over and paper work is done after many tries and much information, the migrants walk out gracefully, waiting for their next step in the immigration process. With grins on their faces they thank the right hand of a migrant, and I am delighted to play a small part in this process.