A Facebook photo of a 23-year-old Arizona State University student named Belén Sisa holding her taxes has gone viral due to the fact it rebuts a popular misconception about undocumented immigrants.
In the post, Sisa says she is paying $300 in taxes this year — and she's not getting money back like other students might. "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,” she wrote. "I think I'm a pretty good citizen. Oh and there are MILLIONS just like me."
Sisa is challenging President Donald Trump to follow her lead and release his taxes. Trump and his team claim no one cares about his taxes, despite the fact a petition asking for them to be released got half a million signatures in less than two weeks (it now has over one million).
Sisa is a Dreamer, having been brought to the United States from Argentina as a child and, as a result, qualifying for temporary protection from deportation under President Barack Obama. "I was hoping to kind of make a statement and educate people," Sisa told The Arizona Republic. "I decided to post it basically to bust the myth that immigrants don’t contribute and they don’t pay taxes to this country."
There is a pervasive myth that undocumented immigrants don't pay taxes and instead drain social programs meant for low-income citizens. In fact, undocumented immigrants contribute billions of dollars to Social Security — a retirement program for which they are not eligible. A 2016 study by the Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy found undocumented immigrants also pay roughly $12 billion annually in income taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, and excise taxes.
As Fusion notes, undocumented immigrants often pay more in taxes than the top 1 percent of U.S. citizens. Still, undocumented immigrants are not allowed to collect welfare, apply for financial aid for college, or receive many other benefits most Americans have access to.
David Card, an economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, told ATTN: that one reason the tax myth persists is that right-wing news outlets often draw disproportionate attention to a small number of cases where undocumented immigrants have received food stamps or government health insurance. That in turn convinces people the "problem" is pervasive.
"You can find evidence of one or two cases of some undocumented immigrants who somehow falsely applied for and received some kind of welfare benefit," Card said. "You can always find that. Just like you can find some undocumented immigrant who committed a crime. Any incident [of those frauds or crimes] will be enough to tip 50 percent of the population into being anti-immigrant."