Belén Sisa is a 23-year-old Arizona resident, a student, an undocumented immigrant, and a taxpayer. Three weeks ago, she took to Facebook to share that she had paid her 2017 taxes, in order to make the point that, despite negative stereotypes to the contrary, undocumented immigrants pay taxes — to the tune of billions of dollars every year. Her post, which includes a selfie with a blank 1040 tax form, has gone viral, with nearly 7,000 shares. As could probably be expected, given our current political climate and the anti-immigrant sentiment that has characterized Donald Trump’s campaign and presidency, Sisa has received a lot of backlash from trolls — but many are also praising her for giving a voice to a community that is often too afraid to speak up. And the fact that she manages to fit in a little jab at Trump's unreleased tax returns is a bonus.
Born in Argentina, Sisa came to the United States with her family when she was 6 years old. Now a junior at Arizona State University studying political science, she is able to stay and work in the country legally under DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). On March 26, Sisa posted a selfie on Facebook, writing,
Sisa said she wrote the post in order to curb some of the false narratives about undocumented immigrants in the United States. “I got really tired of hearing the same narrative and stereotype about immigrants, especially undocumented immigrants, not contributing, not paying taxes, just basically using government benefits and not putting anything into the system,” Sisa told Elite Daily. “I’ve been [paying] taxes for past four years since I received my work permit through the DACA program that President Obama announced in 2012.”
According to The Washington Post, the taxes paid by undocumented immigrants are significant, including approximately $11.6 billion in local and state taxes, as reported in a 2016 study by the Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy. In 2014, Stephen Goss, chief actuary of the Social Security Administration, told Vice News that undocumented workers pay approximately $12 billion to Social Security, while the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, put that number closer to $7 billion.
Despite support from many readers, Sisa has received a barrage of negative comments in the wake of her post. She collected screen shots of some of these messages in a separate Facebook post; these comments tend to be xenophobic and racist, with a bit of misogyny thrown in on the side. In a number of the messages, commenters even say they have reported her to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and threaten to have her deported.
Sisa told The Washington Post that she’s not flustered. “You know what, this is exactly what they want,” she said. “They want to scare me and instill fear so that I will shut up and I won’t continue to bring these issues to light. I hit a nerve. I told them the truth and they couldn’t handle it. Everything they’ve ever known was challenged.”
Despite the hate, Sisa has received a lot of support, especially from other DACA recipients. In one message, a commenter wrote, “A lot of us are not as courageous as you and are too scared to speak up. Without people like you standing up for us I might not have graduated college.” Sisa responded to the positive messages she’s received, writing, "This is the reason to keep going everyday, fighting & standing together.”