Civil Rights / Civil Liberties
Congressman Serrano believes that the federal government must work to provide all Americans with equal protection under the law and to help those groups that have traditionally been discriminated against. More must be done to prevent discrimination at the workplace, and the government must provide assistance for those groups who have been discriminated against both at the workplace and at school. The promise of America is that if you work hard enough, you can succeed. We must bring reality closer to that lofty rhetoric.
Towards that end, Serrano supports vigorous enforcement of the Civil Rights Act, which prevents discrimination on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity, gender, or handicap. In addition, Serrano was an original cosponsor and voted for the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which was signed into law by President Obama on October 28th, 2009. The legislation increased penalties for crimes that are committed against an individual because of his or her race, national origin, religion, disability, gender or sexual orientation (commonly known as "hate crimes").
While on the Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee, Serrano has also worked to ensure that the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and the FBI’s Civil Rights Unit is well-funded. This ensures that there is vigorous investigation and prosecution of discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, disability, religion, or national origin. He also inserted language the FY 2010 CJS Appropriations bill requiring the Department of Justice to study whether there has been an increase in hate crimes against Latinos and immigrants. Preliminary findings from that report indicate that there has been such an increase, and the Department of Justice intends to study the issue further.
In the 111th Congress, Congressman Serrano, along with Congressman Steve Israel and Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, introduced H.R. 2684, the National Hate Crimes Hotline Act. The legislation would establish a national hotline to increase reporting of hate crimes, incentivize local law enforcement to report hate crime statistics to the Department of Justice, and provide funding to local organizations to increase support services for victims of hate crimes. It is expected that this legislation will be reintroduced in the 112thCongress.
In the 112th Congress, Serrano has cosponsored the Respect for Marriage Act (H.R. 1116), legislation that would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (H.R. 1397), which would prevent employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Access to Justice
Serrano also vigorously supports efforts to promote equal access to our justice system, regardless of income. As a member of the Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee, he has worked to ensure increased funding for the Legal Services Corporation and to remove onerous restrictions on what type of cases local legal aid providers are able to take with funds received from outside sources. During the 112th Congress, Congressman Serrano has spoken out against efforts to eliminate federal funding for the Legal Services Corporation.
In addition, Serrano has also worked to ensure that the Bureau of the Census does its utmost to count all individuals in the decennial census- and in particular to prevent undercounts of minority groups from occurring. He has also worked to maintain "some other race" as a valid category on census forms, which the Census Bureau has previously tried to eliminate. This category allows Latinos and others, who do not traditionally associate themselves with any one of the five other listed race categories, to maintain their unique sense of identity.
Serrano has also worked to ensure the Census Bureau had full funding for the 2010 decennial census, and has helped make sure that there is sufficient funding for the Survey of Income and Program Participation Priorities (SIPP), a federal survey which studies the use and effectiveness of income levels and use of important social programs.
Criminal Justice Reform
Our criminal justice system today is in need of reform. Minorities make up the bulk of our prison system, and criminal penalties imposed for some drug crimes are orders of magnitude larger for some than for others. Congressman Serrano strongly supports efforts to revise our criminal penalties for certain crimes, and to provide increased support for services for individuals released from prison in order to prevent recidivism.
Congressman Serrano supported the 2008 passage of the Second Chance Act, which authorized funding for a comprehensive set of re-entry programs to help former prisoners to reintegrate into society without returning to a life of crime. As a member of the CJS Appropriations Subcommittee, Congressman Serrano has worked to ensure that these programs are fully funded within the Department of Justice.
Congressman Serrano opposed Bush Administration efforts to engage in warrantless wiretapping. He believes that the War on Terror does not mean that America needs to compromise its values. As such, he also thinks that trials for terrorists should be held in civilian courts, rather than in military tribunals. In the 112th Congress, Serrano voted against an extension of several controversial provisions of the Patriot Act which could arguably be used to violate the Constitution.
More on Civil Rights / Civil Liberties
Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressman José E. Serrano (D-NY) led a letter with 29 members of Congress to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Acosta and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler on recent reports of skyrocketing asthma cases and worsening asthma symptoms in Puerto Rico following the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria more than 10 months ago.
Washington, D.C. –Congressman José E. Serrano (D-NY) joined Rep. Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Rep. Keith Ellison (MN-05), Rep. Debbie Dingell (MI-12) and over 60 other members of Congress, doctors, nurses, and community activists, to launch the Congressional Medicare for All Caucus. The new caucus will bring together members committed to achieving a single-payer healthcare system to guarantee universal coverage for everyone in the country.
WASHINGTON — House Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-NY), Commerce-Justice-Science Subcommittee Ranking Member José E. Serrano (D-NY), Labor-Health and Human Services-Education Subcommittee Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), and Homeland Security Subcommittee Ranking Member Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) today sent a letter to their Republican counterparts demanding a hearing on the use of federal funds for the Trump administration’s family separation policy.
In Washington, DC
Congressman Serrano Expresses Concern Over Commerce Agreement with Chinese Company ZTE
In Washington, DC
Congressman Serrano, Rep. Meng Introduce Amendment to Restrict Funding for Inclusion of Citizenship Question in 2020 Census
In Washington, DC
Serrano Questions Attorney General Sessions on Troubling DOJ Policies
Attorney General Jeff Sessions appeared before the House Appropriations Commerce, Justice and Science Subcommitee to discuss the DOJ budget request for fiscal year 2019. During the hearing, Ranking Member Serrano questioned AG Sessions on troubling DOJ judicial performance evaluation policies that seem to seek to speed up the processing of immigrant cases.
WASHINGTON — Democratic lawmakers and civil rights organizations are turning to churches, community groups and college campuses to help pressure Congress to reverse the Trump administration’s decision to add a question about citizenship to the 2020 Census.
The Bronx – This week, Congressmen José E. Serrano, Jerrold Nadler, and Robert C. “Bobby” Scott sent a letter to the U.S. Government Accountability Office requesting the agency to evaluate and issue a report on public schools’ compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The three Members are the Ranking Member of the House Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee, Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee, and Ranking Member of the Education and the Workforce Committee, respectively.