Political science senior and DACA recipient Belen Sisa was arrested Thursday in Washington D.C. in the Philip A. Hart Senate Office Building during what one witness said was a "peaceful protest."
Sisa was in the city with 10 other recipients in support of DACA recipients and undocumented immigrants on behalf of United We Dream, an immigrant advocacy group.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals began in June 2012 and protected undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. The program offered them temporary work permits, social security cards, drivers licenses and protection from deportation through a two-year renewal program.
There are 260 DACA students currently attending ASU, according to a University spokesperson, and roughly 100 of them will need to reapply this year. Arizona has nearly 28,000 DACA recipients, and roughly 790,000 people are using the program across the country.
President Donald Trump terminated the program in September following pressure form Republican officials in ten states.
At Thursday's demonstration, DACA recipients surrounded the Hart Senate Office Building and filled the halls up to the fifth floor. Protesters chanted in support of a “Clean DREAM Act.”
A Clean DREAM act would offer protection for DACA recipients and their families. In order to be "clean," the legislation would need to stand alone, excluding funding for the border wall or any other add ons.
When Sisa was arrested, she was chanting and seated on the floor with her arms linking her with five other protesters.
"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."
She was released on post and forfeit, meaning she posted her bail money and forfeited it. Because of this, the charges are resolved.
Esteban Manzo, a sports journalism senior and DACA recipient, said Sisa volunteered to sit down, knowing that she could be arrested. Manzo said she had tears streaming down her face when the protest escalated.
He said watching his friend get arrested made him emotional.
Public policy senior and DACA recipient Oscar Hernandez said Sisa's willingness to get arrested shows her commitment to protecting undocumented immigrants.
"Being raised undocumented, even with DACA, you're conditioned to do whatever police tell you; don't cause any trouble and try and hide." Hernandez said, "So when you're volunteering to get arrested, that's honestly saying you have had enough. .... If you are being arrested with DACA, you don't know what could happen once you're in jail. That could possibly be your deportation."
In order to obtain protection through DACA, recipients must have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor or three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety, according to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.
“She’s a role model for us.” Manzo said. “She told us her heart was telling her to do something like this, and it was the perfect time to do this. We really look up to her.”
Jevin Hodge, Arizona Democratic Party Vice Chairman and Sisa’s friend, said while he was worried, he knew Sisa was in good hands.
“Belen is absolutely courageous and the leader we need at the forefront of this movement of this generational change," Hodge said. "Generational change will provide a realistic focus for people to believe in. ... Because of leaders like Belen, we will see substantial change and we are grateful to have her.”
Manzo felt their time in D.C. was a success, and he hopes that lawmakers pass the Clean DREAM Act.
“We hope that they hear us, and they can do something before December," said Manzo. "They have everything. They have the bill on the table, and they can pass it. We know they can pass the bill."
Following her release, Hodge said Sisa was in “powerful spirits."