“Immigrants don’t pay taxes!”
It’s a common myth, and some pretty high profile people seem to believe it (including, potentially, the president of the United States).
But it’s not true. It’s been proven not to be true.
Yet, it persists.
Recently, an Arizona State University student set out to bust this myth once and for all.
Belén Sisa came to America as a child and has since been a recipient of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood), an Obama administration program that aims to help people who came to America at a young age to stay. She posted to Facebook a photo of one of her tax documents, showing she paid $300 to the state of Arizona even though she’s undocumented.
She’s not the only one. Undocumented immigrants pay over $11 billion per year that goes into programs like Medicaid and Social Security — programs they’ll never receive benefits from.
There’s a multitude of reasons and mechanisms that make this possible, but according to some estimates, undocumented immigrants actually pay taxes at a higher rate than America’s wealthy.
Her post quickly went viral, and soon after, there was extraordinary backlash.
Sisa’s Facebook page was overwhelmed with insults, anger, and worst of all, threats.
People called her post a hoax. They told her to “get the hell out of Arizona.” Or they found a way to gripe about a college student “only” paying $300 in state income taxes.
That’s just what was posted publicly. Sisa’s private messages revealed an even darker shade of rage, including people who claimed to have reported her to ICE and worse.
Sisa stood tall amid an onslaught of criticism. For as many people as she angered, even more people came to her defense.
Other DACA recipients from across the country praised her for fighting for understanding. Applause emojis rained all over her Facebook page. Other immigrants shared how much they’ve paid the government in recent years. Anyone who attacked her was quickly swarmed with dozens of rebuttals.
“Keep fighting girls! You’ll make a difference,” one friend wrote.
“Thank you for sharing this. May you stay safe and warm where you want to be,” added another.
“I admire your strength, Belen! You’re undocumented, unafraid, and here to stay,” Facebooker Isabella Michaele posted. “We sure as hell have got your back.“
Many of the most moving messages were sent directly to Sisa through private message.
“This is what makes it all worth it,” she wrote in a follow-up post. “This is the reason to keep going every day, fighting & standing together.”
There will always be people with a warped understanding of the American dream.
People who think the pursuit of happiness is a right that belongs only to a select few, or who can’t view the success of others without wondering what it might cost them.
If Sisa’s story shows us anything (besides the fact that a 23-year-old immigrant is willing to endure insults and threats of violence by releasing her tax information, while our president refuses to do so), it’s that the believers will always be louder.
And that — far off as it may seem sometimes — the America most of us are dreaming of is still within reach.