Congressman José E. Serrano

Representing the 15th District of New York

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.

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.

Civil Rights

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.

Civil Liberties

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

Jul 9, 2019 In The News

U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman said in a court order the 11th-hour request to change lawyers handling the case is “patently deficient” and provides no “satisfactory reasons.”

The department attempted to change the team of lawyers after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on June 27 against the first attempt by President Donald Trump's administration to add the citizenship question, calling the rationale "contrived." (here)

May 6, 2019 The Serrano Report

In Washington, D.C.

May 1, 2019 Press Release

Washington, D.C. –Today, Congressman José E. Serrano (D-NY), Congressman Will Hurd (R-TX), Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), Congressman Tony Cárdenas (D-CA), and Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) led a bipartisan, bicameral reintroduction of the National Museum of the American Latino Act, which would establish a Smithsonian National Museum of the American Latino on the National Mall dedicated to honoring the contributions of Latinos to the United States.

Apr 4, 2019 Press Release

The subcommittee will come to order.

Good morning everyone, and welcome to a hearing to which the appropriate official shows up!  This morning we welcome the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Christopher Wray, in his first appearance before the subcommittee to discuss the FBI’s fiscal year 2020 budget request and related issues. 

Apr 3, 2019 Press Release

The subcommittee will come to order.

Mar 28, 2019 Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressman José E. Serrano (D-The Bronx) and Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) introduced the Stop Harmful and Abusive Telecommunications Expression (HATE) Act, legislation to address how social media and other forms of electronic communication have helped spread hate speech and fuel the rise in hate crimes against minority groups.

Mar 13, 2019 Press Release

The subcommittee will come to order. 

Welcome everyone to our fourth hearing of the year.  Today we are going to examine gun violence prevention and enforcement efforts.  There is an epidemic of gun violence in our nation, and this subcommittee has a key role to play in the urgently needed response, as we oversee the federal law enforcement agencies tasked with overseeing gun dealers, investigating gun crimes, and running our background check system, among other things. 

Mar 12, 2019 Press Release

The subcommittee will come to order.

Today we are meeting with Eric Dreiband, the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice.  In addition to his work in the private sector, Mr. Dreiband has served in several positions over the years throughout our federal government, including as the General Counsel of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission from 2003-2005, and as the Deputy Administrator of the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division.  Welcome Assistant Attorney General Dreiband.

Mar 1, 2019 Press Release

The Bronx - Yesterday, Congressman José E. Serrano and New York State Senator José M. Serrano hosted their annual Black History Month Celebration in the Bronx with local community groups, advocates, and elected officials.

Mar 1, 2019 Press Release

Washington, DC –Congressman José E. Serrano reintroduced yesterday the Anti-Hunger Empowerment Act of 2019. The bill seeks to change administrative cost provisions within the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to increase its financial capacity to assist underserved communities facing hunger insecurity. The bill is cosponsored by Rep. Hastings, Rep. Velazquez, Rep. Lee, Rep. Watson Coleman, Rep. Thompson, Rep. Omar, Rep. McGovern, Rep. Rush, Rep. Nadler, Rep. Blumenauer and Rep. Espaillat.