Bernie Sanders‘s newest spokeswoman is an illegal immigrant and activist who said that her hiring gives her power to combat “anti-immigrant attacks.”
“This is really emotional for me. I can’t help but think of 18-year-old Belén, who felt hopeless and powerless to the anti-immigrant attacks and policies that were holding her back from her dreams,” Belén Sisa, 25, wrote on Facebook announcing her new job for Sanders, an open socialist.
“I can’t help but think of the generations of sacrifice my family has had to do for me to get here. Never in our wildest dreams did we think I’d be making moves like these,” she added.
Sisa appeared on CNN in January and claimed President Donald Trump was using a subset of illegal immigrants who are currently protected by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an executive order issued by former President Barack Obama, as bargaining chips.
“If [Trump] truly cared about Dreamers, if he truly cared about undocumented youth, he would not be using us as bargaining chips through his tantrum of getting a wall that makes no sense,” she said at the time. The viewpoint was not shared by all so-called Dreamers, as one appeared around the same time on Fox News and said he supported the border wall.
Trump has offered Democrats multiple deals that would exchange further protection for some illegal immigrants in exchange for funding for the southern border wall but Democrat leaders have refused to negotiate with him.
The partial government shutdown stemmed from the failure of the parties to reach a compromise. When Congress ultimately submitted an appropriations bill that the president signed, it included little funding for the wall, prompting the president to declare a national emergency to try to combat the crisis at the border.
Just before announcing her new job, Sisa acknowledged how a number of activists have attacked Sanders on different issues, sharing a post in which another Facebook user said: “Hey Bernie fam, especially white Bernie fam, We’re going to have to learn how to cope with our discomfort and not rush to defend Bernie every time people of color have a criticism with his policy or delivery, like his cop-out tonight on reparations.”
Another post she shared recently, adding: “PREACH SIS[TER],” another user wrote: “Really wanted to see Bernie Sanders run again. We need him in this race. We needed a strong populist candidate and in my view, he is the strongest.”
Sisa told the Arizona Republic in July 2016 that her parents illegally immigrated to the United States from Argentina when she was 6 years old, a fact that she hid from her friends.
She said she got her driver’s license at age 22.
At the time of the interview, she was serving as a page to the Arizona delegation to the Democratic National Convention. She said she worked for the Sanders campaign in a role in Arizona but that she would be urging her family to vote for Hillary Clinton.
“Even though I can’t vote, I can get 200 people to vote, and that matters,” Sisa said. “Everything can change depending on who becomes the next president. Our voice is starting to matter, and we can have an impact even though we can’t cast a ballot ourselves.”
— YvonneWingettSanchez ???? (@yvonnewingett) February 27, 2019
Sisa said she was counting on Clinton instituting laws that would make people like her father legal. “What I’m hoping to hear more of all,” she said. “is that things are going to be solved once and for all within the next few years.”
Sisa has been arrested at least twice, once after taking part in a sit-in outside Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.)’s office in Washington in late 2017 as an attempt to get lawmakers to push for permanent legal status for her and those like her.
She and seven other illegal immigrants claimed that they would refuse to leave the jail or identify themselves to authorities until Schumer and Re. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) said they would block any spending bill that didn’t include the legal status.
Sisa was described at the time by The State Press as a political science senior at Arizona State University.
According to Sisa’s Facebook page, she manages the group “Undocumented Students for Education Equity at ASU.” She studied political science and history at the university, conducted Latino outreach for Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign, and was a media manager for NextGen America.
ASU senior and DACA recipient Belen Sisa was arrested in Washington D.C. on Friday after taking part in a sit-in outside Sen. Chuck Schumer’s office as part of a fight for a Clean Dream Act. — latest from @statepress
— Fortesa Latifi (@fortesalatifi) December 16, 2017
Just five weeks prior to her first arrest, Sisa was arrested for protesting in the Philip A. Hart Senate Office Building in Washington. The State Press said that Sisa and 10 other illegal immigrants conducted the protest on behalf of an advocacy group United We Dream.
Sisa and other protesters chanted “Clean DREAM Act” until they were arrested. The “clean” part refers to activists desiring the passage of legal status for the Dreamers without any compromise with Republicans, such as funding for the border wall.
“I participated in this action because my heart led me to commit myself to put everything on the line for something much bigger than myself,” Sisa wrote in a Facebook post. “Two months ago the Trump administration took away DACA, something we knew would happen, but it opened many old wounds. I could not help but think back to every struggle my family endured for us and for me to be who I am.”
After Sisa’s second arrest, her mother Isabel O’Neal said she was proud of her daughter but also concerned.
“She’s so brave,” O’Neal said. “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.”