Born on August 4, 1970 in Crown Heights, New York, Hakeem Jeffries is the nephew of CCNY Black Studies professor Leonard Jeffries. He earned a BS in political science at SUNY Binghamton in 1992, an MA in public policy at Georgetown University in 1994, and a JD at New York University Law School in 1997. In the early ’90s, Jeffries was employed in the office of Washington, DC mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly. He subsequently clerked for federal judge Harold Baer (Southern District of New York) in 1998; was an associate at the New York law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison from 1999-2003; worked as the litigation counsel for Viacom and CBS from 2003-06; and served as a Democrat in the New York State Assembly from 2006-12.
During his years in state government, Jeffries favored race-based affirmative action preferences in public college admissions and public-sector hiring; supported increased government spending as a means of promoting economic growth; condemned what he called “the systematic civil rights abuses that result from the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk program,” which he viewed as racist; advocated alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent offenders; co-sponsored a Student Loan Fairness Act that advocated loan forgiveness to borrowers who made 120 monthly payments over the course of 10 years; maintained that citizens should not be permitted to carry concealed firearms; and called for the transformation of vacant luxury condominiums into “affordable homes” for low-income families.
Shortly before the decennial U.S. Census in 2010, Jeffries joined forces with Al Sharpton and State Senator Eric Schneiderman in an effort to end what they termed “prison-based gerrymandering” in New York State. Their goal was to require the state to count incarcerated persons as residents of their home communities—rather than of the locales where they were imprisoned—for purposes of tabulating the Census data upon which legislative district lines (and the districts’ respective levels of political clout) would be based. In Jeffries’ view, this was particularly important for communities with large black populations, given the disproportionate degree to which African Americans are incarcerated. Click here for a more detailed explanation of this issue and its ramifications.
In 2012 Jeffries was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he continues to represent New York’s heavily Democratic, majority-black, 8th Congressional District covering sections of Brooklyn and Queens. He is a member of both the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) and the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), and has received strong campaign support from the Working Families Party.
On October 27, 2013, Jeffries and fellow CBC member Yvette Clarke were among the guest speakers at a Civic Engagement Banquet arranged by the Muslim Ummah of North America (MUNA), which describes itself as a “faith-based Dawah [proselytizing] and social service national organization.” The Muslim Brotherhood, in some of its documents, mentions MUNA as one of its component groups.
In January 2014 Jeffries was one of 13 House Democrats who co-sponsored a bill requiring a government agency, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, to study how hate speech on the Internet, mobile phones, television, and radio may “advocate and encourage violent acts and the commission of crimes of hate” against “vulnerable individuals.” “This legislation will mandate a comprehensive analysis of criminal and hateful activity on the Internet that occurs outside of the zone of the First Amendment protection,” said Jeffries.
Jeffries was angered by a Ferguson, Missouri grand jury’s November 2014 decision not to indict a white police officer who had shot and killed an 18-year-old black male named Michael Brown in an August 9th altercation. Despite the wide circulation of wholly fraudulent reports suggesting that Brown had been shot while his hands were raised in compliant surrender, the physical, forensic, and legitimate eyewitness evidence showed conclusively that the young man was in fact shot after he had assaulted the officer and tried to steal his gun. On December 1, Jeffries took to the House floor to display the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” gesture that had become symbolic of a massive anti-police-brutality protest movement stemming from Brown’s death. He characterized the gesture and its accompanying slogan as “a rallying cry of people all across America who are fed up with police violence” and with “the injustice involved in continuing to see young, unarmed African-American men killed as a result of a gunshot fired by a law-enforcement officer.” “This is a problem that Congress can’t run away from,” Jeffries declared.
Jeffries was outraged yet again on December 3, 2014, when a grand jury in New York chose not to indict a white police officer who, on July 17th, had been involved in a physical confrontation that resulted in the death of a 43-year-old black Staten Island resident named Eric Garner. According to Jeffries, the non-indictment “should shock the conscience of every single American who cares about justice and fair play.”
In 2013 Jeffries co-sponsored the Minimum Wage Fairness Act, which called for raising the minimum wage for workers nationwide to $10.10 per hour. That same year, he voted against maintaining a work requirement for welfare recipients.
On March 9, 2017, Jeffries marked the twentieth anniversary of the death of the 24-year-old rap star Biggie Smalls, also known as Notorious B.I.G., by reciting some lyrics from the rapper’s 1994 song “Juicy”: “‘It was all a dream, I used to read Word Up! magazine. Salt-n-Pepa and Heavy D up in the limousine. Hangin’ pictures on my wall, every Saturday Rap Attack, Mr. Magic, Marley Marl.” He also characterized Small as having been “the King of New York” and “one of the world’s most important hip hop stars.” Jeffries ended his remaeks by saying, “Where Brooklyn at?”
In June 2017, Jeffries stood on the House floor and said that “so many folks dripping in hatred flocked to [Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential] candidacy,” and that Trump’s election represented a racist “backlash” against “eight years of progress” in America. “Why would people that worship at the altar of white supremacy [be] drawn to Donald Trump’s campaign?” Jeffries asked. “That’s not to say that every American who voted for Donald Trump is a racist,” he added. “We do know that every racist in America voted for Donald Trump. That’s a problem.” Further, Jeffries said it was unlikely that Attorney General Jeff Sessions would prosecute hate crimes, because he was “straight out of central casting” for a “good ol’ boy.”
With the federal government in the midst of a partial shutdown due to an impasse between President Trump, who demanded congressional funding for the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, and the Democrats, who resolutely refused to authorize such funding, Jeffries said on December 30, 2018: “[W]hat Donald Trump and the Republicans want to do is waste $5 billion in taxpayer money on an ineffective, medieval border wall that is a 5th century solution to a 21st century problem. Yes, we need comprehensive immigration reform. Yes, we need to enhance border security. But we are not willing to pay $2.5 billion or $5 billion and wasting taxpayer dollars on a ransom note because Donald Trump decided that he was going to shut down the government and hold the American people hostage. That’s unreasonable.”
With the Democrats having recaptured control of the House of Representatives in the 2018 midterm elections, Jeffries became Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus in January 2019.
During a Martin Luther King Jr. Day event at Al Sharpton‘s National Action Network in January 2019, Jeffries likened President Trump to a Ku Klux Klan leader: “These are challenging times in the United States of America — we have a hater in the White House, a birther in chief, the Grand Wizard of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. One of the things that we’ve learned is that while Jim Crow may be dead, he still got some nieces and nephews that are alive and well.”
On January 6, 2021 in the District of Columbia, President Trump delivered a speech to a massive crowd of his supporters and noted, toward the end of his talk, that many of the onlookers would soon be “marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard” regarding what they viewed as election fraud that had cost Trump his re-election. Unfortunately, several hundred other people claiming to be Trump supporters swarmed the Capitol building and made their way inside, creating an atmosphere of crisis for several hours. Jeffries, in turn, blamed Trump personally for the actions of the mob. Calling Trump “treasonous” and “a clear and present danger,” the congressman said from the steps of New York City Hall: “Donald Trump must be removed from office immediately, he should be impeached, convicted and thrown out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and forever banished to the dustbin of history. On Monday, a privileged resolution will be introduced that will charge the President of the United States with inciting sedition.”
In a January 28, 2021 interview with MSNBC, Jeffries characterized supporters of former President Trump as “domestic terrorists and the white supremacists.” Asked “what happens if there’s no accountability for him or the rioters” who had occupied the Capitol on January 6, the congressman replied: “[P]art of the lesson of the first impeachment trial for him was that he could shoot holes in the Constitution on Pennsylvania Avenue and get away with it because Senate Republicans were prepared to bury their heads in the sand…. [E]very available option to hold him accountable for his actions should be undertaken…. And we’re not going to be cowed by the domestic terrorists and the white supremacists and the enemy combatants who want to stop us in our tracks. That would be giving in to them, and that’s not going to happen.”
In a February 7, 2021 interview on MSNBC, Jeffries commented on the possibility that at Trump’s upcoming impeachment trial in the Senate, the former president’s attorneys would seek to equate the January 6 unrest at the U.S. Capitol with the Black Lives Matter rioting that had swept across the country throughout 2020. Said Jeffries:
“[I]t’s absolutely ridiculous, but it’s not surprising. It’s a false equivalence, and I believe it will be an attempt to engage in vicious race-baiting. The notion that you are going to equate some sporadic instances of civil unrest… how can you compare that to a violent attack on the Capitol when the president at the time summoned the mob to Washington, D.C., then incited the mob, and then directed the mob to march on the Capitol as part of an insurrection to halt the peaceful transfer of power, undermine our democracy, and resulting in the deaths of several Americans?… The two cannot be compared, and it shows the weakness of the argument that President Trump should be acquitted. He should not. He should be convicted.”
On October 11, 2021, which was Columbus Day, Jeffries tweeted: “Millions of indigenous people lost their lives during the genocide committed against them in the Americas. Today we pause in solemn recognition of this human tragedy. And recommit to uplift the original occupants of this land.”
On January 23, 2022, the New York Post reported that Jeffries, every year since 2010, had been paying less than $250 in annual property taxes on a $1.2 million Prospect Heights condominium unit in which he and his family resided — thanks to a massive property tax break granted under the 421-A abatement program heavily skewed toward wealthy developers and affluent tenants. During his tenure in the New York State Assembly (2006-2021), Jeffries had co-sponsored and voted for renewal of the 421-A law, which gave developers and residents significant property tax reductions over a 25- to 35-year period in exchange for their agreeing to make at least 20 percent of the apartments in their complex “affordable” for low-to-moderate-income people. Jeffries, whose yearly congressional salary of $174,000 was supplemented by the income of his wife, who served as a benefits manager at the powerful SEIU Local 1199 union, was entitled to continue receiving the tax break under the abatement program through the year 2032. Michael McKee, treasurer of Tenants PAC, said of the congressman: “It’s abusive. It’s ridiculous. With all due respect, Hakeem Jeffries doesn’t need help in paying his full property taxes. Jeffries walks around like he’s a man of the people. Meanwhile he’s ripping people off. It’s a ripoff of the taxpayers. He’s happy to get this sweetheart deal while screwing the public.”
For an overview of Jeffries’ voting record on an array of key issues, click here.