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Clerk refuses to serve immigrants while demanding ‘United States ID,’ NC lawsuit says

Two men walked into a North Carolina gas station in June looking to buy juice, an alcoholic beverage and fuel, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday.

Instead, the pair said they walked out “humiliated.”

Emilio Zepeda Cordova and Walter Montano Lopez — who are Salvadoran but living in the country legally — are suing Sam’s Mart LLC after they said a Charlotte-area clerk refused to serve them until they provided “proof of legal citizenship.”

In response, Zepeda Cordova and Montano Lopez said they handed her a Central American passport, a North Carolina license, a green card and a Social Security card.

“The Sam’s Mart employees working refused to serve plaintiffs and stated, ‘this is not legal,’” according to the complaint. “When plaintiffs persisted, the Sam’s Mart cashier repeatedly yelled, ‘I want to see United States ID’ and then instructed plaintiffs to leave.”

A representative for Sam’s Mart did not immediately respond to McClatchy news group’s request for comment Wednesday.

Zepeda Cordova and Montano Lopez said the incident occurred June 1 with roughly three employees working and 11 other customers in the store.

According to the complaint, the pair are lawful permanent residents of the United States and North Carolina.

“Regardless of the fact that identification is not required to purchase gas and juice, the identification plaintiffs provided are acceptable forms of identification to purchase alcohol under North Carolina law,” the suit states.

Still, Zepeda Cordova and Montano Lopez said the cashier would not serve them. After reportedly being asked to leave, the pair said they called the police.

But the cashier took off her name tag and locked herself in her car when an officer arrived, according to the suit.

“The cashier avoided speaking with the police officer because she knew her repeated refusal to serve plaintiffs was discriminatory and unlawful,” the complaint states.

The officer then told Zepeda Cordova and Montano Lopez “there was nothing that could be done” and instead recommended they “post the story on the internet.”

Zepeda Cordova and Montano Lopez make claims for discrimination based on their race, color, ethnicity or ancestry in the suit. They are also seeking an injunction barring the convenience store chain from future “illegal discriminatory conduct” and more than $25,000 in damages.

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Hayley is a Real Time reporter at The Charlotte Observer covering breaking news and trending stories in the Carolinas. She also created the Observer’s unofficial bird beat (est. 2015) with a summer full of ornithological-related content, including a story about Barred Owls in love.