An engineering student at Purdue University tried to purchase some over-the-counter cold medicine, along with other items, at a CVS pharmacy on October 25. He wasn’t expecting to be denied his purchase due to a lack of proper identification.

Jose Guzman Payano is Puerto Rican. He is in his junior year, studying to be an engineer. He went into a CVS drug store close to campus, a store he frequents once a week, and picked up some items, including medicine to treat his sore throat and congestion. As he used the self-scan check-out, the machine’s screen alerted him that id is required to purchase the medication.

Guzman Payano presented his driver’s license. The cashier rejected his Puerto Rican driver’s license as an acceptable form of identification, as well as his passport, which he says he carries around in his backpack as extra identification. The cashier wanted to see a visa. Guzman Payano explained that Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory and Puerto Ricans are United States citizens but she continued to ask for a visa, three times in all. He claims she said she needed proof of his immigration status.

The engineering student left in frustration and then returned to ask about speaking with a supervisor. The supervisor, he said, responded as had the cashier. Both told him it was corporate policy and they were following that policy.

Something about this story is fishy. As is so happens, I purchased some over-the-counter cold medicine last weekend and I also had to show identification. This is not a new procedure – apparently, we are all making meth in our garages now using cold medicine or something. I have to say I have never heard of a cashier asking for proof of immigration status in a pharmacy transaction. Maybe it’s my white privilege talking. Granted, my driver’s license is issued by the State of Texas, but I figure somewhere along the line I would have heard such a conversation from other customers at a pharmacy if this is a common problem.

As a side note, he was trying to buy Mucinex, which I didn’t realize required id, as I’ve never had to show it for that particular medicine. I do have to show id when I purchase Claritin-D, as I did over the weekend.

It looks to be a failure to properly train this CVS’s employees. The student got a ride from a friend and went to another pharmacy – one in a national supermarket chain – and had no problem buying the medicine. As it turns out, I am not sure the medicine he was trying to purchase helped his symptoms anyway – later that day he was diagnosed with bronchitis at the Purdue University Student Health Center. He filed a complaint with CVS.

Guzman Payano did what most college students do when something goes wrong – he called his mom. She reacted as any mom would – she was angry that her kid wasn’t treated properly. She posted about the incident on social media and the post has gone viral. She, like her son, points to today’s political environment. After pondering what could have caused the act of discrimination, whether it was his accent or the color of his skin, she stated in her Facebook post: “Whatever triggered her to discriminate against my son embodies exactly what is wrong in the United States of America today.” And she went there with President Trump:

I guess I should be thankful that he wasn’t thrown in the back of an ICE van and interrogated, or worse. I can’t help to be ANGRY, OUTRAGED, and DISGUSTED. The current issues we are experiencing in the United States related to immigration, ICE raids, and rampant racism are directly fueled disgracefully by President Trump. What happened to my son today is not unlike what many other families have had to face since Trump was sworn into office and it’s completely unacceptable. Enough is enough. The men that signed the Declaration of Independence stated that all men are created equal. Our founding fathers must be rolling over in their graves.

As a Puerto Rican, a United States citizen, a mother, a union member, a wife, and a human being, I will not let this stand! I cannot let this stand! And with every fiber in my being I will fight the injustice that was done to my son. I will use every resource I can to get this story out and make this right!

To all my friends, please help me spread this message and maybe, just maybe, someone else’s child won’t have to go through this. I call on all Purdue students to boycott CVS – especially the Puertorriqueños.

She conflates poor training by CVS with the work done by ICE. She retaliates for the insult given to her son by insulting the hard work performed by ICE agents. That, too, is unacceptable to most Americans. Mom also delivers a standard trope of the left – Trump promotes racism.

CVS issued a statement:

“We are committed to ensuring that every customer receives courteous, outstanding service in our stores, and we apologize to the customer for his recent experience,” Amy Thibault, a CVS spokeswoman, said. “We are fully investigating this matter to learn more about what occurred. While our employees must adhere to laws and regulation requiring identification for the purchase of over-the-counter medication, our expectation is that all customers be treated in a professional manner.”

“Yes, a Puerto Rican ID is considered a valid form of identification at CVS Pharmacy,” Thibault said. “All employees at this location have been reminded of the company policy.”

The mom is correct in stressing that the requirement of showing id when purchasing some over-the-counter medicine is to prevent teenagers or others from stockpiling it and making illegal drugs, like meth. There is no requirement for a pharmacy to ask about the immigration status of any customer.

This looks to be a failure of training in this particular drug store. Purdue University (my husband’s alma mater) has more than 70 students from Puerto Rico. Guzman Payano admits this kind of incident isn’t common.

Guzman Payano said the he hadn’t run into similar situations in West Lafayette since arriving at Purdue, which lists 71 students enrolled from Puerto Rico on the university’s student data page online.

“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this happened,” Guzman Payano said. “It is weird because we’re such a broad campus at Purdue. There are people from everywhere. But I can’t use my ID from Puerto Rico? Not even my passport? This shouldn’t happen here. Period.”

His mom’s 940-word post on Facebook has received over 10,000 ‘shares’. She has an update and asks that no CVS staffers be harassed.


My family and I are so grateful for the outpouring of support and love we have received following my post regarding the incident that happened with my son at CVS. I can’t thank everyone enough for that but we would like to ask that we all remember to treat each other with respect. Furthermore I ask that no one harass or threaten any CVS staff in relation to this incident. Let’s all be the better person in this situation. Thank you all again for the support and love for my family.

Maybe mom will read her own words and show a little respect to ICE agents simply doing their jobs and to the President of the United States.