Belen Sisa has been named U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders’ deputy press secretary. She is also, by her own admission, an undocumented immigrant.
That’s led to some criticism in conservative circles. Sanders, of course, is one of a string of candidates who has entered the 2020 presidential contest. Sisa, 25, was an outspoken college activist at Arizona State University who frequently spoke out about ICE, DACA, and other issues important to the immigrant community.
She is a “dreamer” who is protected from deportation by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, according to AZCentral.com.
She once wrote, “Frankly, I am tired of being told that our dreams, our lives, and our families are not important enough to be at the top of the agenda. I am tired of living with the constant stress and anxiety of not knowing what my future will look like in the next few months. I am tired of seeing my friends crying, because they will be losing their ability to provide for their children, work, go to school, or live safely in the place they call home.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Belen Sisa Is From Argentina & Speaks Openly About Being Undocumented
According to her Facebook page, Belen Sisa is from Buenos Aires, Argentina and lives in Phoenix, Arizona. “In Arizona, there are two temperatures. Hot and a little less hot. Thanks Arizona State University! ✨☀️?” she wrote on Facebook.
She has been open about her undocumented status, writing in a Facebook caption alongside her college graduation picture:
I’ve done many things in my life I never thought I would do, but this one holds a special place in mine and my families heart. The young undocumented girl you said no to did it anyway. Everyone thinks it’s impossible until it is done. You don’t wait for permission, you fight your way into institutions and change them for future generations. To the undocumented students after me, do not give up, you have an entire community behind you, who love you and are ready to uplift you. We will continue to fight for equitable education in the state of Arizona and everywhere. I am proud to officially be a graduate of Arizona State University. Longer post to come.. ?
Sisa was brought to the United States by her parents at the age of 6.
She shared a photo of herself with other ASU grads and wrote, “Undocumented, unafraid, unapologetic, and graduated! We’ve made it through the obstacle course put in place by the State of Arizona ❤️✊? #ImmiGrads #Undocugrads.” She also wrote, “They call me “job stealing immigrant”, while I’m over here facing an uphill battle, finding joy through the challenges, and getting degrees and stuff ☺️?”
She once posted a photo of herself holding a tax form and wrote, “So here I go again.. #2017tax forms in hand: MYTH BUSTER: I, an undocumented immigrant, just filed my federal and state taxes in the state of Arizona. In fact, I pay sales tax, and every other kind of tax you can think of. I cannot receive financial aid from the state or federal government for school, I cannot benefit from unemployment, a reduced healthcare plan, or a retirement fund. I think I’m a pretty good citizen. Oh and there are MILLIONS just like me who pay into a system they will never receive anything from. Wanna tell me again how I should be deported, contribute nothing and only leech off this country while the 1% wealthiest people in this country steal from you everyday? How about you show me yours President Donald J. Trump? #HereToStay. #UndocumentedUnafraid.”
According to The Hill, that photo went viral.
In December 2017, she wrote, “I have 682 Days Left With DACA.. I’m lucky, others in my community can’t wait any longer. What will you choose – to fight for protection for millions of Dreamers or stand with the White House and racist politicians who are separating families? #DreamActNow #UndocumentedUnAfraid #NoDreamNoDeal.”
She also wrote: “We’ve learned to fight back. When you come for one of us, you come for all of us. #NotMyPresident.”
2. Sisa Attended Arizona State University After Promising Her Parents She Would Get a College Degree
On her Facebook page, Sisa says she is the “former Arizona Media Manager at NextGen America” and “former Latino Outreach at Bernie 2018.” She wrote about her decision to attend college, saying it was a dream her parents had for her. Her photos on Facebook show her in many activist settings.
“Many many years ago, a determined and stubborn younger version of me made a promise to you y mama that I was going to go to Arizona State University and get a college degree,” she wrote along with a photo of her dad. “Today on your birthday, I’m graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a Minor in History. WE as a working class undocumented immigrant family accomplished what seemed like the impossible in a state like Arizona. So it is with so much happiness that I say Happy Birthday Dad, we did it! ❤️??”
Her page says she “manages Undocumented Students for Education Equity at ASU.” In October 2018, she wrote on Facebook, “For the next 30 days, I will be living and breathing November 6th. There is nothing more important I could be doing. Our lives, our communities, and our future depends on it.”
She was homecoming queen in high school, per a photo she shared on Facebook.
3. Sisa Advocates Abolishing ICE & Was Against Brett Kavanaugh’s Nomination
“????????? #AbolishICE,” Sisa wrote on Facebook, sharing a graphic that read, “Merry Christmas to everyone except anyone involved in ICE even the interns.” She called U.S. Customs and Border Protection “agents of Trump’s deportation & murder force.”
She has adopted other liberal stances, but many of her posts focus on immigration reform.
She wrote: “Still fighting, still dreaming. #UndocumentedUnafraid #Dream7 #NoDreamNoDeal.” In October 2018, she wrote, “With everything going on things can feel so discouraging to so many of us especially, with all the violence, hate, racism and fascism we’re experiencing. But progress cannot be stopped. We must keep going, we must be the light that cannot be stopped, because we have the will, the power and the love to do so.”
She shared a graphic that read “we need to love each other as much as we hate the bourgeoisie,” and captioned it, “2018 mood.”
Another graphic shared by Sisa reads, “My favorite season is the fall of the patriarchy.” She also shared comments opposing the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. She shared a photo of a coffee mug emblazoned with the words “white male tears” and wrote, “*Puts in cart* #StopKavanaugh.”
4. Belen Sisa Hid Her Undocumented Status From Some in High School
To AZCentral, Sisa recalled the days in high school when she hid her undocumented status from other people. She described doing so when her friends were talking about getting their driver’s licenses.
Later, she became a vocal immigration activist. The newspaper described how she was a page at the Democratic National Convention.
“For someone who was so scared of participating in anything, and coming out and doing this, it’s pretty hard to believe I’m standing in the middle of it all,” she told the newspaper.
Sisa told the newspaper she initially supported Bernie and worked for his campaign but would vote for the Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016.
5. Sisa Was Arrested Twice in Protests
Belen Sisa’s activism has led to arrests. She once wrote on Twitter, “If you’re reading this, I have been arrested in Washington, D.C. and will refuse to leave jail until @SenSchumer and @RepCurbelo publicly confirm that they have whipped the votes to block any spending bill that does not include a Clean Dream Act. #NoDreamNoDeal.”
According to the State Press, she was an ASU senior at that time. The newspaper reported that Sisa was also arrested while “protesting in front of the Senate Hart building.”
Her mother Isabel O’Neal expressed concern, telling the State Press,”She’s so brave. DACA is expiring every day. Hers is going to expire in one year and what are we going to do with all of these youth? Congress has to pass the Dream Act.”
Belen Sisa wrote, “If you are reading this, I have been arrested in Washington, D.C. and will refuse to leave jail until Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Congressman Carlos Curbelo publicly confirm that they have whipped the votes to block any spending bill that does not include a Clean Dream Act.
During my time in jail I will be risking it all by facing possible detention and deportation by refusing to leave until our demands are met. In this moment, my head and my heart have told me that time has run out for empty promises from our political leaders, we need action now! As of today, I have 673 days until my work permit expires, it is time for those making the laws in our country to realize that DACA is no more and that every single day that they do not take action 122 undocumented youth lose protection, we cannot wait.”