Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders made an unusual addition to his campaign earlier this week with the hiring of 25-year-old Belen Sisa, a political activist from Arizona, to be his next press secretary.
As the Washington Examiner reports, Sisa notably admitted to not having citizenship and had no legal documentation keeping her in the country. She’s an illegal immigrant who is legally protected from deportation by the DACA program, the executive branch memorandum which was signed by former President Obama.
According to the report, Sisa has been repeatedly arrested for her political involvement and now no longer fears participating in politics without citizenship:
Despite her immigration status, Sisa has remained active in liberal politics over the years. In 2016, she worked as a page to the Arizona delegation at the Democratic National Convention and in Latino outreach for Sanders’ 2016 campaign.
“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 said at the time.
Sisa soon lost her fear of participation. She has been arrested at least twice for protests throughout her activist career. As a college senior in 2017, she was jailed for her role in a sit-in outside of Sen. Chuck Schumer’s, D-N.Y., office. While in jail, Sisa told reporters that she organized a “prison strike.”
Just weeks before that, she was arrested for a protest outside the Senate Hart Office Building. Both protests were over immigration reform and a demand that Congress pass the DREAM Act — a bill that would permanently legalize children who were brought into the country illegally — “cleanly,” without extraneous provisions.
— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) March 1, 2019
Sisa announced the hiring on her own Facebook page with a picture taken four years ago with Sanders.
“I was 21 when this picture was taken in the summer of 2015,” Sisa wrote. “Fast forward 4 years after joining the historic campaign that changed my life, I have many scars and bruises, but the hope is still there.”
“My life recently has taken some crazy unexpected twists and turns,” she continued in the post. “From thinking I was going to be moving to San Francisco, to now moving to Washington, DC. I know many of you are wondering what exactly I’ll be doing in DC, well… I am incredibly excited and honored to announce that I will be joining the Bernie 2020 campaign as National Deputy Press Secretary.”
She continued: “This is really emotional for me. I cant 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. I cant 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.”
Here’s more, from the Hill:
Sisa told another news outlet in 2016 that while she could not vote, she hoped her activism would inspire others to support her candidate. The Arizona advocate for immigrant rights supported Sanders in his 2016 bid before supporting Hillary Clinton during the general election.
“Even though I can’t vote, I can get 200 people to vote, and that matters,” Sisa said at the time, according to the Arizona Republic. “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.”