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Student with Puerto Rico ID denied medication from CVS, questioned on immigration status

Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind — A Purdue University student says he was denied over-the-counter cold medication because of his Puerto Rican 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 Jose Guzman Payano, a junior engineering student.

Guzman Payano says the cashier kept saying the store did not accept his form of identification.

"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.

He says incidents like this have happened before.

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

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He ended up leaving the store without his medication and called CVS to file a complaint.

"I was a little nervous. I was shook by what had happened," said Guzman Payano.

He left the store and called his mom back in Puerto Rico to explain what happened. Arlene Payano Burgos took to social media to post what happened to her son. It's a post that has been shared more than 10,000 times.

"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."

Payano Burgos called to speak with a shift supervisor at the store.

"She proceeded to explain that she was just following CVS policy, and that CVS only accepts identification from the United States, Canada or Mexico. I then explained that Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States, and she then clarified that the policy specifically requires that employees do not accept driver's licenses from Puerto Rico!"

Guzman Payano says it took nine days for someone from CVS to contact him about his complaint.

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

A CVS spokesperson released a statement telling Eyewitness News:

"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."

Guzman Payano says more people need to be educated about Puerto Rico. 

"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," he said.

Puerto Rico is about 1,000 miles southeast of Florida in the Caribbean Sea. It first became a U.S. territory following the Spanish-American War in 1898. In 1917, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Jones-Shafroth Act, which officially made Puerto Rico a U.S. territory. Puerto Ricans were granted U.S. citizenship by an act of Congress.

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