Things That Matter

Puerto Rican IDs And Driver’s Licenses Are Legal And It’s Time For People To Stop Saying They Are Invalid

Since Hurricane Maria, Puerto Ricans have moved to the mainland U.S. The move is possible because Puerto Ricans are American citizens after the passage of the Jones Act of 1917. While the Jones Act made them U.S. citizens, they are not full Americans lacking the right to vote in elections and their representatives do not have voting power. Yet, despite the law making Puerto Ricans U.S. citizens, some people on the mainland are still in the dark when it comes to Puerto Rican identification cards.

An NYU journalism student was recently turned away at a bar because a bouncer decided that her Puerto Rican ID was invalid.

Credit: all.around.the.town / Instagram

According to Washington Square News, NYU’s independent student newspaper, Rebecca Gelpí was with a group of friends when they decided to head to Los Feliz, a Mexican bar and restaurant. According to Washington Square News, the bouncer for Los Feliz said that he was “uncomfortable” with their form of ID and asked why they didn’t have a passport.

“They asked us why we did not have our passports with us,” Gelpí told Washington Square News. “So I said, ‘Because we’re American citizens, we don’t need to carry [them] around.’”

According to the Washington Square News, this is one of many instances of the bar refusing to acknowledge legal IDs from Puerto Ricans who want to get in. The report shows two other instances of people leaving feedback about the bar’s blatant refusal to accept their Puerto Rican identification and legitimate. This isn’t the only instance of a U.S. business claiming Puerto Rican IDs are foreign.

An Indiana Purdue University engineering student says CVS employees would not sell him over-the-counter cold medicine after demanding immigration papers. Jose Guzman Payano, who is Puerto Rican and therefore an American citizen, said that he presented his driver’s license issued from Puerto Rico but the workers rejected it. The employees insisted he needed a “valid” U.S. ID and began to interrogate Guzman Payano about his immigration status. 

The student formally filed a complaint with CVS, but because of the debacle, he wasn’t able to purchase the cold medicine he needed. His mother Arlene Payano Burgos shared his story on Facebook, where it went viral and began to receive attention from reporters. CVS says it is investigating the situation. 

CVS employee allegedly claims Puerto Rican driver’s license is not valid U.S. ID. 

“She said she needed a U.S.-issued ID, Canada or Mexico license. That’s when I tell her that was a U.S. issued license, and I didn’t need anything else but that license,” said Guzman Payano explained to WUSA. 

He claimes the cashier of the store refused to accept his driver’s license from Puerto Rico, but would have accepted one from Canada or Mexico, when he went to purchase Mucinex. Guzman Payano was all the more stunned when she asked him for a visa— the presumption being he must not be a citizen. 

“And then when she asked me for a visa, I was in shock at that time. And we went back and forth, and I said this is a U.S.-issued license,” said Guzman Payano. Sadly this isn’t the first time something like this has happened to the student. 

He showed the cashier his United States-issued passport and he says she still refused to sell him the medicine. 

“I carry around my passport on my bookbag because of things like this,” he said.

Guzman Payan files a formal complaint with CVS. 

https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=10156753256583321&id=530748320

Guzman Payano left the store without his cold medicine and called his mother, Arlene Payano Burgos in Puerto Rico. Payano Burgos took the incident to Facebook where her story was shared over 10,000 times. 

“A Puerto Rican driver’s license is a valid form of US identification, and is even accepted by the Transportation Security Administration for travel within the United States. In an effort to wrap up the transaction and get back to school, he then proceeded to show her his United States Passport which she also refused to accept,” the mother wrote.

Adding that the employees refused to give Guzman Payano their information for the complaint. 

“She then subsequently refused to sell him the medication. The shift manager then came out and gave him the same explanation. My son then asked them for their names to file a complaint. Both employees refused to give him their information and he was forced to leave the store without the medication.”

Payano Burgos thought it was outrageous that any customer would be forced to disclose their immigration status to CVS whether they were a citizen or not. 

“Needless to say my son, or any other consumer, is not obligated to disclose his immigration status to any CVS employee! What caused this employee to ask him for his visa? Was it his accent? Was it his skin color? Was it the Puerto Rican flag on the license? Whatever triggered her to discriminate against my son embodies exactly what is wrong in the United States of America today,” she wrote. 

CVS releases a statement about the incident. 

Guzman Payano said it took nine days for CVS to contact him about the complaint, according to WUSA

“I felt ignored basically like something did happen, but they didn’t want to take care of it,” he said.

A CBS spokesperson released a statement to WUSA Eyewitness News that included an apology to Guzman Payano saying that Puerto Rican driver license’s are a valid form of U.S. identification. 

“CVS Pharmacy is committed to ensuring that every customer receives courteous, outstanding service in our stores. We sincerely apologize to our customer in West Lafayette for his recent experience in one of our stores. We do, in fact, recognize Puerto Rican driver’s licenses to be a valid form of U.S. identification. We are reinforcing with employees the correct procedures to follow when requesting identification that is required by law for the purchase of certain over-the-counter medications.”

According to the New York Times, a 2017 Morning Consult poll found that 46 percent of Americans don’t know people born in Puerto Rico are United States citizens by birthright. 

“There’s a lack of education — especially here in the states — of how Puerto Rico came to be part of the U.S. Some people don’t even know where Puerto Rico is located,” Guzman Payano said.

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