This Undocumented Immigrant Did Her Taxes Weeks Before You Probably Did

by John Haltiwanger

Your taxes are due tomorrow, April 18.

If you've already done them, congrats! Give yourself a pat on the back for getting them out of the way.

If you haven't, you should probably learn from the example of Belén Sisa, a 23-year-old student at Arizona State University who finished hers weeks ago.

Not only did Sisa do her taxes early, she's not even a US citizen!

Yes, you read that correctly.

Sisa is an undocumented immigrant who has paid taxes for the last four years.

By the way, she's hardly unique.

Surprise! Undocumented immigrants pay taxes, too.

Every single year, undocumented immigrants in the US pay roughly $12 billion in state and local taxes taxes, according a 2016 study from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

Sisa, a dreamer who is shielded from deportation under former President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, was tired of how many Americans were unaware of this, so she decided to do something about it.

In late March, she posted an image of herself with her tax return on Facebook.

The post, which not only sought to dispel the myth undocumented immigrants are leeches on the system, was also critical of President Donald Trump's refusal to release his tax returns.

It's worth noting a majority of Americans — 80 percent of voters (including 64 percent of Republicans) — would like to see the president release his tax returns, which was evident over the weekend as thousands took to the streets to demand he do so.

Sisa's post went completely viral.

As of April 17, her post been liked 16,000 times and shared nearly 7,000 times.

Uncle Sam doesn't care if you have a social security number, he wants you to pay your taxes.

But Sisa didn't post this to become an internet sensation — she had an important message to spread.

She recently took some time to speak with Elite Daily about what inspired her to do this, and how she dealt with the response, which was both positive and negative:

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. I've been taxes for past four years since I received my work permit through the DACA program that President Obama announced in 2012.

The xenophobic and anti-immigrant rhetoric that surrounded the 2016 US presidential campaign, which hasn't exactly dissipated, was a huge part of what inspired Sisa to speak out.

"Uncle Sam doesn't care if you have a social security number," she said, "he wants you to pay your taxes."

Despite her noble intentions and the truth behind her words, Sisa was viciously targeted over her viral post.

Sisa received a lot of hate for her post, but she has no regrets.

The internet can be a nasty place, and Sisa experienced that firsthand.

People attacked her for a disgusting array of reasons after her post went viral.

Many attacked her for being a woman, while others tried to expose her as a fraud.

They said she seemed too wealthy, pretty or intelligent to be an undocumented immigrant.

Sisa shared some of the more hateful messages she received on Facebook to show people the discrimination immigrants face on a daily basis.

While this certainly wasn't enjoyable for Sisa, she feels it exposed a lot of people to the ugliness immigrants and other groups face in the US:

It opened the eyes of a lot of people who aren't in the same position, who don't have to worry about the same things, to realize they need to start protecting those who are in these situations... We can't win these battles alone, we're going to need people who are allies to say, 'You know what, this is not what we stand for, this is not OK and you can't say these things.'

She also thinks it helped reveal the emptiness of the anti-immigrant positions of the president and many of his supporters:

Their narrative is that they want the 'good immigrants,' they don't want the 'bad immigrants.' Well, I did the right thing and you still don't want me here. So, what is this really about? Is this really about 'bad immigrants,' or is this about you being racist and xenophobic to someone who's different from you. That's why I exposed the messages, because I wanted people to see this…is about them not wanting us here, this is what immigrants are facing every single day.

What also made this entire experience worthwhile was the positive messages Sisa received, including from Republicans.

She said,

I definitely don't regret doing it because of the positivity and messages I received from people on the other side.

Some Republicans messaged her with encouragement and told her she "belonged here," which she said "was the complete opposite of what I received in the negative messages."

Sisa felt vindicated when she found out how many people had actually learned from her post. She said,

What was really rewarding was getting the messages from people who told me they had no idea you could pay taxes without a social security number, or that undocumented immigrants actually paid $12 billion [in taxes].

Guess what? Not all undocumented immigrants are from Mexico.

While Sisa is certainly encouraged by the people who were educated via her post, she knows the road ahead will not be easy, especially when it comes to combatting myths about undocumented immigrants.

For example, Sisa, who was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and came to the US when she was 6, would like you to know not all immigrants are from Mexico. She said,

Immigrants come from all over the world. Immigrants come here legally and overstay their visas. Immigrants cross the border. There are many ways people come in and out of this country, and I think we need to start busting this myth... that everyone who comes here, that's an immigrant, looks a certain way.
Pew Research Center

Sisa would also appreciate it if people stopped asking her why she doesn't just "become a citizen." She said,

Each time I get that question, it makes me cringe, because it just shows how uninformed people are about how hard it is to become a citizen...and the difficulty of this system. You don't just fill out an application and get in a line and then you become a citizen. That's not the way it works.

Indeed, becoming a citizen in the US is an extremely complex and difficult process that takes years.

Like many undocumented immigrants, Sisa has spent most of her life in the US.

Sisa loves the US and sees it as her home.

She even worked for the Bernie Sanders campaign last year, despite the fact she can't vote, because she wants to play as active a role in this society as she can.

Sisa, a junior studying political science at Arizona State, hopes to eventually get into law school and go on to be an attorney who fights to uphold civil liberties in her community.

Like millions of others who simply want to contribute to the betterment of this country, she's proof it's long past time we stop stereotyping undocumented immigrants.