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
In Washington, DC
Congressman Serrano Questions Small Business Administration and General Services Administration Executives on Puerto Rico
Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressmen José E. Serrano (D-The Bronx) introduced legislation to address how social media and other forms of electronic communication have helped fuel the rise in hate crimes against certain minority groups around the country.
In Washington, DC
Congressman Serrano Leads Letter on Need for Comprehensive Emergency Supplemental for Puerto Rico
This week, Congressman José E. Serrano led a letter with 7 of his colleagues in support of a comprehensive relief and recovery effort by the federal government to help Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Texas, and Florida. The letter includes a number of important programs that must be funded in both the near and long term:
In Washington, DC
Congressman Serrano Fight for Puerto Rico In the Aftermath of Hurricane Maria
September 20, 2017, BRONX, NY—Congressman José E. Serrano and Legal Services NYC are pleased to announce that Project Not Alone, a collaborative effort between Bronx Legal Services and Sauti Yetu Center for African Women & Families, has been awarded a competitive grant for continued funding to provide holistic legal and social services for survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking in the Bronx.
The Bronx – Today, Congressman Serrano was joined by Former Mayor David Dinkins; Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr.; New York State Senator Gustavo Rivera; New York State Assemblyman Victor Pichardo; Councilmember Vanessa L. Gibson; and Bronx Postmaster Lilliam Rodriguez for the renaming ceremony of the Morris Heights Post Office, located at 2024 Jerome Avenue, in honor of Dr. Roscoe C. Brown, Jr. The renaming was made possible thanks to Congressman Serrano and other members of the NY Delegation efforts in Congress last year.
In Washington, DC
Congressman Serrano Reaffirms His Commitment to Protecting DREAMers
Washington, DC – Representatives José E. Serrano, Michelle Lujan Grisham, Hakeem Jeffries, and Grace Meng condemned the Republican decision to block their amendment to combat hate crimes from being considered by the full House. The amendment was offered this week to H.R. 3354 – Make America Secure and Prosperous Appropriations Act, and would have allocated $10 million for State and Local Law Enforcement Assistance grant programs to provide support for the criminal investigation and prosecution of hate crimes at the state and local level.
In the wake of the tragedy in Charlottesville, and what I feel was the President’s troubling and wrong response, I wanted to write to you to speak about our path forward in these challenging times. As your Representative in Congress, I have spent the past several months fighting back against these divisive and harmful ideas.
Washington, DC – US Congressman José E. Serrano today released the following statement in response to President Trump’s press conference yesterday where he doubled down on his initial response to the Charlottesville tragedy.