Today the Supreme Court blocked the Trump administration from ending the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program that began in 2012. DACA has helped prevent tens of thousands of U.S. residents from being deported to countries they barely remember. One of them is Alejandro Flores-Muñoz, co-owner of Stokes Poké, a food truck and kiosk specializing in the Hawaiian-style seafood dish.
Flores-Muñoz was only seven years old when his parents brought him to the U.S., so for most of his life he's been trapped in a no-man's land as an undocumented resident without the ability to apply for citizenship. As an adult, he was able to apply for DACA status, which provides a form of documented status that allows him to stay in the country legally and work. The program is not without its price, though; Flores-Muñoz must re-submit paperwork and pay nearly $500 every two years to receive DACA protection.
The entrepreneur has also paved the way for other DACA recipients to own their own businesses in Denver, by asking the city to clarify its licensing rules and paperwork requirements, which until last year were confusing and contradictory. In April 2020, Flores-Muñoz became the first DACA recipient to receive a Denver business license.
In 2017, the Trump administration announced plans to phase out DACA, potentially leaving more than 15,000 people in Colorado without protection from deportation. After lower courts blocked Trump, the case made its way up to the Supreme Court, which called the president's rollback of DACA "arbitrary and capricious."
The ruling comes as a relief to the many DACA recipients who have been part of the system for the past eight years, but Flores-Muñoz says more change needs to happen. He's not currently covered by DACA because he missed his renewal deadline — in part because it came during a tough time and he couldn't afford the $495 renewal fee, and in part because his status as a legally licensed business owner gives him a certain amount of protection. He explains that in previous years, he was an employee of a nonprofit organization, so he needed to renew regularly or risk losing his job. The entire situation, he notes, is an example of why DACA needs to become permanent. "Congress needs to put together a comprehensive bill that includes a path to citizenship," he adds.
"The president is going to do everything in his power to divide the country," Flores-Muñoz states. "But people who are covered by DACA are contributing to the economy, and we need to celebrate that. Our movement has been validated by the highest court in the country, and that's worth celebrating."
The ruling comes as the second piece of good news for Flores-Muñoz this month; he just relaunched the Stokes Poké drive-up kiosk at 5115 Morrison Road last week. Stokes Poké started out as a mobile food business operating out of a converted Volkswagen microbus (which is currently in the shop after being hit by a drunk driver). Flores-Muñoz and his business partner added the kiosk last year, planting it on the 16th Street Mall for added visibility.
The new location doesn't have the pedestrian traffic of downtown Denver (or at least pre-COVID downtown Denver), but it's at the intersection of Morrison, Sheridan Boulevard and West Mississippi Avenue, giving the bright-blue shack plenty of visibility. The co-owner says he's reduced prices to fit the needs of the Westwood neighborhood, which he was able to do in part because of the kiosk's close proximity to its commissary kitchen.
Customers can walk up or drive up, and the poké company also takes phone and online orders. Stokes Poké is currently open from 1 to 7 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday; call 720-401-5819 or visit the kiosk's online store to order.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.