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
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that 86 state-funded victim assistance programs will receive approximately $20.4 million over three years to hire case managers who will streamline and improve services for crime victims and their families.
The Bronx, NY – On the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination, Congressman José E. Serrano (D-NY) released the following statement in commemoration of Dr. King’s life and work:
Washington, DC – Congressman José E. Serrano, Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Commerce, Justice, and Science Subcommittee, which funds the U.S. Census Bureau released the following statement regarding the Commerce Department’s decision to include a question about citizenship status in the 2020 Census:
Congressman Serrano Helps Secure Important Funding Increases in Final FY2018 CJS Omnibus Bill
Washington, DC – Congressman José E. Serrano, Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Commerce, Justice, and Science Subcommittee, released the following statement on the FY2018 omnibus bill released today. Serrano, who was instrumental in shaping the CJS portion of the legislation, successfully fought to increase funding for the U.S. Census Bureau, the elimination of a number of riders that would have undermined gun safety, and an increase in funding for programs to help combat the opioid crisis nationwide.
Washington, D.C. - Congressman José E. Serrano joined Reps. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), and more than 160 other House Democrats to introduce legislation to ban assault weapons and take dangerous weapons of war off Americans streets. Congressman Serrano is an original co-sponsor of the bill.
The Bronx – This week, 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 local elected officials.
Washington, DC – U.S. Congressman José E. Serrano released the following statement expressing serious concerns of Mayor’s de Blasio’s decision to build one of the four jails that would replace Rikers in the South Bronx:
Washington, DC – Congressman José E. Serrano, a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee and Ranking Member of the Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) Subcommittee, today released the following statement in response to President Trump’s budget blueprint for Fiscal Year 2019 (FY2019):
In Washington, DC
Congressman Serrano Votes Against Short Term Continuing Resolution
Congressman Serrano opposed the numerous short term Continuing Resolutionsthat did not include sufficient disaster relief funding for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands or the DREAM Act. Watch Congressman Serrano’s discussion of the shut down and the CR here: