Last summer, Alejandro Flores-Muñoz met John Hickenlooper, Colorado's former governor who was running for the U.S. Senate against incumbent Cory Gardner at the time. The two posed for a picture in front of Flores-Muñoz's Stokes Poke stand at 5115 Morrison Road (it has since closed), and Hickenlooper used that photo as part of his social media campaign, along with the statement "Alejandro Flores-Muñoz is the first DACA recipient to get a Denver business license. I stopped at his kiosk, Stokes Poké, today to talk entrepreneurship & protecting Dreamers. Alejandro is an inspiration to our community."
Hickenlooper beat Gardner and is now representing Colorado in Washington, D.C, where he just voted in favor of an amendment to the fiscal year 2021 budget that blocks "illegal immigrants" from receiving COVID-related stimulus checks. Hickenlooper was one of only eight Democrats to vote in favor of the amendment, which passed by a vote of 58-42, since all Republican senators also voted in favor. The amendment is considered non-binding, because current legislation already prohibits undocumented immigrants without Social Security numbers from receiving the funds. But that hasn't prevented Colorado's immigrant advocates from expressing their displeasure with Hickenloopoer.
Flores-Muñoz had thrown his support to Hickenlooper during the election; he says he'd implored friends and family to vote for the former brewpub owner. As thanks for his support, he was part of Hickenlooper's virtual swearing-in ceremony to the U.S. Senate.
But now he feels betrayed.
"It's a slap in the face," Flores-Muñoz says. "We put our trust in people who look to our community for support during elections time and time again. And so many times, we're disappointed. But this was done by someone who pledged support to our cause. This time, after I felt disappointed, I felt anger and betrayal."
Flores-Muñoz does far more in Denver than serve poke; he's worked for nonprofit organizations, launched businesses (his latest is a ghost kitchen called Combi Taco), hosted online forums about entrepreneurship for undocumented immigrants, and written a book called No Papers No Fear: You Can Do Business Here. As a DACA dreamer who was brought to the U.S. from Mexico, he currently has no path to citizenship, but he lives and works here legally and pays taxes.
But many other immigrants in his position haven't been as fortunate. some, including Flores-Muñoz's own mom, have been able to work legally and pay taxes by setting up an Individual Taxpayer Identification number, even if they can't get a Social Security number. But these are the kind of people the amendment Hickenlooper voted for targets, says Flores-Muñoz: "These are people who pay income tax and sales tax."
Beyond penalizing immigrants who are trying to earn a living, the amendment is dangerous in its wording, he adds, because it uses the phrase "illegal immigrant."
As Flores-Muñoz points out: "This is playing into the rhetoric that has been used to attack us for so long. And not only do we pay taxes, but we can't get health care and other social services."
Flores-Muñoz says he has reached out to Hickenlooper's staff to see if he can have a meeting with the senator to ask why he sided with Republicans on the amendment, but he's not holding out hope that the meeting will happen.
"We're being undermined as a community with political power," he concludes. "I don't think this will be forgiven by me or my community. We won't be undermined again."
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