When 23-year-old Belén Sisa posted a picture of herself along with a 1040 tax form on Facebook to show she had paid state taxes in Arizona despite being an undocumented immigrant she didn’t know what to expect.
“I wanted to educate people and bust the myth,” Sisa told NBC Latino, “that Uncle Sam doesn’t care if you have a social security number.”
Sisa is shielded from deportation under former President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
The post went viral. It’s now been shared over 4,700 times.
Response to the controversial post was swift. Sisa said she has received plenty of backlash, even death threats and that many people messaged her informing her they had reported her post to local immigration authorities.
Although Sisa said she’s received hundreds of messages, it’s unclear how many people have reported the post to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
“As a matter of policy, the agency does not speculate on any alleged tips made through the ICE tip line,” said Yasmeen Pitts O'Keefe, a spokesperson for the agency, to NBC Latino.
Sisa remains defiant.
“I’ve been paying taxes for the past 4 years since I’ve had DACA. I always get annoyed and kind of angry because I pay taxes but all you hear is that we don’t.”
Although some of the messages were positive, she wanted to expose some of the ugly and wrote a follow up post on Facebook with screenshots of some of the messages she had allegedly received.
One read, “Reported you to ICE and Homeland Security. Crime doesn’t pay lady,” Another one read, “Get the (expletive) out of this country you ILLEGAL piece of (expletive), while another said, “Too bad you are cute, but you need to come back the right way.”
Sisa said that rather than feel discouraged, she feels empowered by the messages.
“Don’t let the negative messages stop you from speaking up because that’s exactly what they intend for you to do,” Sisa said. “Take a picture of your taxes and make a post. Let them know that you pay taxes too, because people don’t know.”
Sisa is a junior political science major at Arizona State University. She has been very involved in politics; she worked for the Bernie Sanders campaign and as a page at the Democratic National Convention.
“I learned that even though I couldn’t vote, I could get others to get engaged to cast a vote,” she said.
According to Sisa, this is her fourth year paying taxes; she has lived in this country since she was 6 years-old. Her parents brought her here on a tourist visa which they overstayed.
“I grew up here. This is my home. I have my closest family here. I work here and will continue to work here.”
Although there’s much debate about how much unauthorized immigrants contribute or affect the economy, a report by the non-partisan Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy found that undocumented immigrants contributed an estimated $11.74 billion each year through sales, personal income, and property taxes.
“There’s a misconception about the immigration system; people have this idea that becoming a citizen is really easy, that you just fill out a form and get in a line,” she said. “Do you really think I like being here as an undocumented immigrant?”
Cristian Benavides is a reporter for WNJU-TV, Telemundo.