“How much more do we have to prove to this country before DACA becomes permanent?”
Alejandro Flores-Muñoz is many things. He’s a Mexican immigrant, a small-business owner, a proud member of the LGBTQ community, and both a recipient of and vocal advocate for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
On October 5, a federal appeals court decided against a defense of the DACA program, which was created back in 2012 under the Obama administration to protect undocumented immigrants — a group often referred to as “Dreamers” — who were brought to the United States as children. But the decision leaves the current policy intact for the nearly 600,000 individuals enrolled in the DACA program, as the ruling was sent back to a lower court in Texas for further review.
Flores-Muñoz seemingly burst onto the Denver scene in 2020, when he became the first DACA recipient to receive a Denver business license and opened Stokes Poké, a combination food truck and kiosk. He says he owes his entrepreneurial spirit to his mother.
“My mom has been my inspiration, and I come from a family of immigrants and merchants,” Flores-Muñoz explains. “I grew up watching my mom as a single mother own businesses and have full-time side hustles, too.”
The two immigrated to the United States when he was seven years old, and he would watch as his mother went door-to-door selling flan, cheesecakes, perfumes and even colchas (quilts). “Entrepreneurship has always been at the forefront of my life,” Flores-Muñoz says. “As I grew up, I realized I needed to do side hustles as well.”
Flores-Munoz credits both the DACA program and moving to Denver with kickstarting his career. “When I first got DACA in 2013, I knew I wanted to launch my own business and really legitimize my hustle,” he recalls.
And he did just that. While Flores-Muñoz has been actively building his business over the past ten years — he’s expanded into catering, banquets, a brick-and-mortar coffee shop in Littleton, and even has a vending machine in Meow Wolf — he’s been working tirelessly to be a voice for the immigrant Latino community amid a changing Denver economy and the COVID-19 pandemic.
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“I like to tell people that as an immigrant, as a gay man, there are opportunities to thrive here in Denver,” Flores-Muñoz begins. “Being so outspoken and ‘unapologetic’ about my identity has allowed me to benefit from services and opportunities. I think there is an opportunity for growth right now if we embrace our identities, if we don’t shy away from them.”
In June, Flores-Muñoz and other Dreamers were invited to the White House to celebrate the tenth anniversary of DACA. “I had the opportunity to meet with Vice President Kamala Harris to celebrate all the contributions DACA brought to this country," he recalls, "but also highlight the importance of ensuring a pathway to citizenship and a more urgent plea for a permanent solution.”
In light of the October 5 ruling, Flores-Muñoz wants to highlight the contributions of the DACA community both nationally and in Denver. “It’s not only about jobs and small businesses," he says. "I want cultural contributions to be brought to the forefront.
“Right now is the perfect time for Latinos who have their own businesses to use branding and marketing in a way to support our endeavors and our stories,” Flores-Muñoz continues. “This is our moment to say, ‘Look, we’re small. We’re Latino. Support us.’”