The Serrano Report - Volume XVI, Issue #38
In Washington, D.C.
Congressman Serrano Leads Letter on Alarming Rise in Asthma Cases in Puerto Rico
Congressman Serrano 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. The letter is a request for information on the federal government’s response to the growing threat of an asthma crisis on the island in order to take appropriate Congressional action.
“Puerto Rico is not new to the threat of asthma. More than 415,000 Puerto Ricans on the island live with the chronic disease. However, what we are hearing from doctors on the island is a cause for great concern,” said Congressman Serrano. “Damaged homes and buildings still in need of repair are a breeding ground for mold spores and other pests that trigger asthma symptoms. The prolonged use of gas- and diesel-powered generators that power many buildings as the island continues to cope with an unstable electrical grid are spewing toxins that make the air difficult to breathe. Meanwhile, the number of doctors on the island is shrinking and access to quality health care is more limited every day. The pace of recovery has been unacceptably slow, and we fear that it may be leading to another public health crisis. Congress needs to know what the federal government is doing, or plans to do, to address this matter in a timely manner.”
A recent article in the Associated Press, Puerto Rico struggles with jump in asthma cases post-Maria, reported that many doctors are seeing an alarming number of new asthma cases and individuals are experiencing more severe symptoms since the hurricanes devastated the island last September. The article highlights the many side effects of the storm’s lasting damage and slow pace of recovery as potential reasons for the increasing cases. The federal government must continue being responsive to the needs of Puerto Ricans as they continue on the long road to full recovery.
To read the full letter and release click here.
Congressman Serrano Announces First NSF Awards Under Hispanic-Serving Institutions Program
Congressman Serrano announced the first round of National Science Foundation (NSF) funding under the Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI) Program. As lead Democrat on the Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Subcommittee—which funds NSF and the HSI program—Congressman Serrano and Congressman Crowley successfully included language in the America COMPETES Act that mandated the creation of an HSI program. HSIs received $30 million in funding in FY 2018 and due to the efforts of Congressman Serrano, the House Appropriations Committee has increased funding for this program to $50 million for FY 2019. Under this round of NSF HSI grants, a total of 31 educational institutions, including two in New York City and one in Puerto Rico, received a total of $45 million in funding.
“This HSI program funding will lead to greater collaboration between the National Science Foundation and Hispanic-Serving Institutions across the nation to further invest in our Hispanic students and their education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Hispanics currently make up 16 percent of the U.S. workforce, but only 6 percent pursue careers in the STEM fields. We need to make sure that every American is ready to participate, contribute, and pursue careers in these fields now and in the future. These awards will help ensure that HSIs, which have traditionally lacked funding, can educate future Hispanic scientists and engineers,” said Congressman Serrano.
Click below for more information about the NSF HSI Program click here.
For more information about the full list of awardees, click here.
Congressman Serrano Announces $300,000 NASA Grant for Bronx Community College's New STEM Courses
Congressman Serrano, Ranking Member of the Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee, announced that Bronx Community College in the Bronx will receive $317,098 in funding to develop and offer new science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) courses through the NASA’s Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP). These courses provide minority and low-income students with the opportunity to participate in NASA-related STEM workshops. The goal of the project is to help prepare, train, and develop NASA’s future workforce.
“The STEM fields will only continue growing in importance in coming years. By engaging minority serving institutions like Bronx Community College, NASA is helping ensure that every child has access to the education and training they need to pursue careers in the STEM fields and at NASA itself regardless of social or economic background. This funding is an investment in our future generations, in NASA’s future capabilities, and in our future scientific competitiveness. As the Ranking Democrat on the appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA, I have prioritized efforts to expand opportunities for our most talented individuals from all communities to enter the STEM fields,” said Congressman Serrano.
Bronx Community College was one of five education institutions selected for this grant award. More information on their initiative from NASA’s grant award notification is below:
Bronx Community College, New York : The courses proposed by this school are geared toward enrolling minority and low-income students to participate in a series of hands-on and field-based workshops. The workshops will focus on inquiry-based geospatial technology and STEM activities developed by using NASA’s online data repositories and state-of-the-art equipment available through partner institutions. The participants will learn to analyze Earth observation data, develop automated feature extraction tools, and perform image analysis and classification.
For information about NASA's education programs, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/education
Congressman Serrano Reacts to New Information on Commerce Secretary Ross' Push for Citizen Question in 2020 Census
Congressman Serrano responded to new information on Secretary Ross’s role in the inclusion of a citizenship question on the 2020 Census, which was made public on July 24th in the thousands of emails released by the Trump Administration in response to pending lawsuits against the Secretary.
“When Secretary Ross appeared before the CJS Appropriations Subcommittee on March 20, 2018 to discuss the Department’s budget needs, I specifically asked him about the citizenship question, his views on it, and whether the Department had made a decision about including it in the 2020 Census. His answer was essentially that the Department was still considering the question and that a decision had not been made. The emails made public today as part of the lawsuit against Secretary Ross for the inclusion of the question bear out that Secretary Ross misled me, the entire Appropriations Committee, and the public by testifying that the Department was still considering including the question when in fact a decision had already been made. Secretary Ross obviously had a clear stance and keen interest in including the citizenship question from the start, and repeatedly pushed for its inclusion throughout the process. This revelation is disturbing, alarming, and evidences that the Administration was seeking this change purely for political reasons, not because it made any sense as a policy. The emails make clear that this question’s addition to the 2020 Census has no basis in policy. It should be removed immediately.”
Click on the image below to watch Congressman Serrano confront Secretary Ross on the inclusion of a citizenship question in the 2020 Census during a House Appropriations Committee Hearing:
Congressman Serrano, Congresswoman Velázquez Press ICE/EOIR on Cancellation of In-Person Hearings for Detained Immigrants
Before leaving D.C., Congressman Serrano, Congresswoman Velázquez and 13 additional New York bicameral members of Congress wrote to top immigration enforcement officials demanding answers on the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) and ICE’s abrupt policy to substitute in-person hearings for video conference calls at its processing center in Lower Manhattan. In the letter, the lawmakers argue that forcing immigrants to resort to video conferencing during legal proceedings undermines one’s right to full and fair consideration of their case.
“This is the latest Trump Administration assault on immigrants’ rights and a clear effort to undermine our due process system,” said Velázquez. “By gutting in-person hearings, EOIR and ICE are making it harder for immigrants to exercise their constitutional rights. We are demanding a full explanation of how ICE arrived at and is justifying this policy change.”
“The sudden replacement of in-person hearings for video conference calls in Lower Manhattan is baffling and unsubstantiated. In all likelihood, this change will only have an adverse impact on immigrants’ ability to use all the legal resources and options available to them – which in turn has a negative impact on the result of their removal proceedings. We need more details as to why it decided to get rid of in-person hearings in parts of NYC without notifying the public in advance and what the intended and unintended consequences will be. These changes undermine constitutional due process without justification, and New Yorkers need answers as to why,” said Serrano.
On the heels of President Trump’s tweet saying immigrants at the border should be denied due process, officials in EOIR Lower Manhattan immigration court made a quiet decision to switch from in-person hearings to video conferences for immigrants seeking counsel. In the letter, the lawmakers are asking EOIR and ICE to provide justification and an explanation for the sudden policy change.
The full text of the letter is below. For a PDF, click here.
Congressman Serrano Joins Congressional Medicare for All Caucus as Founding Member
Before leaving for the August recess, Congressman Serrano 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.
“I was thrilled to join many of my Congressional colleagues and members of the medical community this week to launch the Congressional Medicare for All Caucus, a much needed and timely effort. I have always strongly believed that access to health care is a basic human right, not a privilege for those who can afford it. Thousands of Bronxites and millions of Americans simply cannot afford access to the healthcare they so desperately need. The United States continues to have some of the worst health care outcomes compared to other industrialized nations, and these statistics are only getting worse under the Trump Administration’s efforts to destroy the Affordable Care Act. Doctors, nurses, and the American people agree: it is time to build on the success of Medicare and expand this single-payer system to provide guaranteed access for all Americans. I look forward to working together with other members of the caucus to continue pushing for universal health care coverage. Medicare for All is possible, and we can afford it!” said Congressman Serrano.
|Congressman José E. Serrano joins Medicare for All Congressional Caucus as a founding member (7/19/2018)|
|Congressman José E. Serrano stands with Congressional colleagues, doctors, nurses and community activists to launch the Medicare for All Congressional Caucus (7/19/2018)|
Congressman Serrano has been a sponsor of Medicare for All legislation in every Congress since the 109th Congress (2005-06)
Members who have joined the Caucus:
Representatives Pramila Jayapal, Keith Ellison, Debbie Dingell, Nanette Diaz Barragán, Joyce Beatty, Don Beyer, Earl Blumenauer, Brendan F. Boyle, Anthony Brown, Michael E. Capuano, Andre Carson, Kathy Castor, Judy Chu, David Cicilline, Katherine M. Clark, Yvette D. Clarke, Wm. Lacy Clay, Steve Cohen, Mike Doyle, Eliot L. Engel, Adriano Espaillat, Dwight Evans, Lois Frankel, Marcia Fudge, John Garamendi, Jimmy Gomez, Vicente Gonzalez, Al Green, Raúl M. Grijalva, Alcee L. Hastings, Brian Higgins, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Jared Huffman, Henry C. "Hank" Johnson, Ro Khanna, Brenda Lawrence, Barbara Lee, John Lewis, Ted Lieu, Zoe Lofgren, Alan Lowenthal, Carolyn B. Maloney, James (Jim) McGovern, Jerry McNerney, Grace Meng, Jerrold Nadler, Grace Napolitano, Richard M. Nolan, Chellie Pingree, Mark Pocan, Jared Polis, Jamie Raskin, Lucille Roybal-Allard, Tim Ryan, Jan Schakowsky, Robert "Bobby” Scott, José E. Serrano, Adam Smith, Darren Soto, Mark Takano, Dina Titus, Paul D. Tonko, Marc A. Veasey, Nydia M. Velázquez, Maxine Waters, Bonnie Watson Coleman, Peter Welch, Frederica Wilson, John Yarmuth.
Congressman Serrano Responds to FEMA Post Hurricane Report Assessment Report
Congressman Serrano responded to FEMA’s After-Action Report for the 2017 Hurricane season:
“The post assessment report released by FEMA confirms what we all knew all along: FEMA was completely unprepared to respond to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and millions of Puerto Ricans suffered as a result. The report’s list of failings is damning: supply needs were severely underestimated, and not enough was stored on the island prior to the storm; FEMA was not prepared to remedy this by getting supplies quickly to the island after the storm; and there were not enough personnel in place to address the logistical challenges of getting help where it was needed after the hurricane hit. Additionally, disaster preparedness planning was well out of date, thus underestimating what was actually needed to respond to a disaster of this magnitude. All of these challenges were worsened by the fact that the agency wasn’t prepared for many of the challenges that Puerto Rico faced in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria - including the serious transportation, electrical, and health care challenges.
“FEMA’s lack of planning and coordination made a bad situation worse, and many Puerto Ricans needlessly suffered as a result. We can’t allow a crisis like this to happen again. I will be working with my colleagues in Congress to ensure that FEMA uses the findings of this report to upgrade their capacity to help Puerto Rico and other areas in the aftermath of future natural disasters.” Said Congressman Serrano.
Congressman Serrano Joins Call to Abolish ICE
Congressman Serrano (D-NY15), a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, joined efforts calling for the abolishment of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE):
“Like the rest of our current immigration system, ICE is broken. For years, ICE has engaged in extremely questionable behavior in local communities in New York and throughout the nation- driving fear into the hearts of hard-working parents and children. It has undermined its own mission and our nation’s basic morals.
“The mounting problems at the agency defy belief. ICE has proven unable to safely oversee the dozens of contract private detention centers they send individuals to on a daily basis. They have engaged in indiscriminate targeting of immigrants- undermining the safety of our neighborhoods and splitting up families of long-time residents of this nation. They have aided and abetted in immoral actions like family detention and family separation. And these problems are only growing under the active encouragement of the Trump Administration.
“ICE is a fatally flawed organization that operates without the necessary oversight or responsibility to do its job in in a fair and humane manner. It lacks the internal checks and balances to rein in these excesses, and it presenting a vision of America to the rest of the world that isn’t in keeping with our values. It is time to abolish ICE.” Said Congressman Serrano.
Congressman Serrano also help introduce the Establishing a Humane Immigration Enforcement System Act with Representatives Pocan, Jayapal, Espaillat, Blumenauer, McGover, Smith, Velazquez and Clarke. The bill, if passed, would begin the process to abolish ICE.
Congressman Serrano Fights to Keep Families Together
Congressman Serrano has been a strong advocate against the Trump Administration's inhumane immigration policies that have separated thousands of children from their families at the border. During The Appropriations Committee Full Committee Markup of the Labor, Health & Human Services, Education & Related Agencies FY 2019 bill Congressman Serrano introduced an amendment that would have prevented funding for "tent cities" for children separated from their parents at the border and instead encourage small-scale, nurturing facilities. Children are being traumatized & neglected by family separation & how we house them is making it worse. The amendment failed by 22-30 with no Republican voting in favor of the amendment. Congressman Serrano is also a proud sponsor of the the Keep Families Together Act.
Watch Congressman Serrano introduce the amendment by clicking on the image below:
Click on the image below to watch Congressman Serrano's thoughts on family separation:
Congressman Serrano Introduces Amendment to Increase Suicide Prevention Funding
With suicide rates rising nationwide Congressman Serrano introduced an amendment during the Appropriations Committee Full Committee Markup of the FY 2019 Labor, HHS, Education Appropriations bill that would increase funding for The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by $20 million and $15 million for other suicide prevention programs at Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Watch Congressman Serrano introduce the amendment by clicking on the image below:
In the Bronx
Congressman Serrano Joins Community to Discuss #JusticeForJunior Aftermath
Congressman Serrano joined Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. in a meeting with police, elected leaders, community members, educators, non-profits and others to discuss the aftermath of the horrendous murder of Lesandro “Junior” Guzman-Feliz in the Bronx. As the Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science Congressman Serrano has committed himself to continue fighting for adequate funding for violence reduction, mentoring & community trust programs a the Justice Department, which would help ensure that tragedies such as these are effectively prevented & addressed.
Congressman Serrano Announces Nearly $240,000 in Federal Funds For Bronx Community Development Institution
Congressman Serrano, Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Commerce, Justice, and Commerce Subcommittee, announced that the Treasury Department Community Development Financial Institutions Fund (CDFI Fund) awarded Spring Bank in the Bronx $233,387 in federal funds as part of its fiscal year (FY) 2017 funding round of the Bank Enterprise Award (BEA) Program.
“I am proud to once again announce federal funding for a key community development institution in our borough, Spring Bank. The CDFI program has been crucial to the Bronx’s economic growth, allowing individuals and businesses to avoid financial ruin and prosper over the years," said Congressman Serrano. "This funding will allow them to access resources that mainstream financial institutions won’t provide in our communities. This is why I will continue defending this important program from the Trump Administration’s efforts to gut it, along with many other important social and economic development programs that are crucial for underserved communities." Said Congressman Serrano.
For more than a decade, Congressman Serrano has fought to protect and ensure the CDFI program is allocated adequate levels of funding as a member of the Appropriations. For years, Congressman Serrano served as either Chairman or Ranking Member of the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over the program.
The CDFI Program invests in credit unions, banks, loan funds, and other financial institutions operating in underserved communities that do not have access to affordable financial products and services. It is a vital resource that draws in additional private money and investment to underserved communities. Statistics show that for every dollar of federal funding through the CDFI program, awardees can leverage $13 in private investment.
CDFIs help bridge the financial services gap in underserved communities like the Bronx, helping ensure that local businesses and non-profits have the ability to expand and that individuals have access to mainstream financial services. This financial support has helped create and expand some of the community's most important priorities- including affordable housing, health care services, and small businesses.