- U.S. Congressman (D- New York)
- Member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus
- Favors comprehensive immigration reform that provides a path-to-citizenship for illegal aliens
- Admires Fidel Castro
- Praised President Clinton’s clemency offer to FALN Puerto Rican terrorists
Born in Puerto Rico in 1943 and raised in the South Bronx, Jose Serrano attended a New York vocational high school and then Lehman College before joining the Army Medical Corps, where he served for three years during the Vietnam War. After leaving the Army in 1966, Serrano became active in Democratic Party politics in the Bronx. He worked for the New York City Board of Education for five years, and in 1974 he was elected to the New York State Assembly. In 1985 he ran unsuccessfully for the office of Bronx Borough President, but retained his assembly seat.
In January 1990 Democrat Robert Garcia, as a result of his involvement in the infamous Wedtech scandal, resigned from his post as the representative for an NYC congressional district centered on the mostly-Hispanic South Bronx. With vocal support from key Democratic leaders—including Jesse Jackson, New York Mayor David Dinkins, and Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer—Serrano won Garcia’s vacated seat in a special March 1990 election and has held it ever since. A number of his political campaigns have been supported by the Democratic Socialists of America.
Describing his own political ideology as “to the left of the left,” Serrano is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and the Congressional Urban Caucus. In 2005 he also demonstrated his opposition to the Iraq War by joining the Out of Iraq Congressional Caucus.
Serrano has established a reputation as one of Congress’s most ardent advocates of comprehensive immigration reform that would provide a path-to-citizenship for millions of illegal aliens. In so doing, he has depicted Republicans and conservatives who oppose such a measure as racists and xenophobes who are unwilling to accept brown-skinned newcomers from Central America to the United States. In the June 11, 1994 edition of the Communist Party USA‘s People’s Weekly World, for instance, Serrano published an article titled “Immigrant bashing—a dirty political sport.” In 2007 Serrano was a vocal supporter of then-New York Governor Eliot Spitzer’s plan to permit illegal immigrants to acquire driver’s licenses; the congressman blamed the measure’s ultimate defeat on “the hate in this country toward immigrants right now.”
Some of Serrano’s key votes and positions regarding immigration also include the following:
- In 2004 he voted against a bill requiring hospitals to gather and report information on possible illegal aliens before the hospitals could be reimbursed for treating them.
- In 2006 he voted against the construction of a physical barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border, to stop the flow of illegal immigrants.
- In 2006 he voted against an amendment stipulating that U.S. funds could not be used to inform the Mexican government about the whereabouts of Minuteman Project volunteers surveilling the Mexican border for illegal immigrants.
- In 2008 he voted against an amendment designed to prevent illegal immigrants from receiving government assistance for housing expenses.
- In 2010 he supported efforts to pass the DREAM Act, legislation that would provide college tuition discounts and a path-to-citizenship for illegals who came to the U.S. as minors.
- On numerous occasions, he has sponsored legislation designed to protect the illegal-alien parents of citizen children from deportation.
- He has staunchly opposed proposals to make English the national language of the United States.
- In July 2014, he impugned Republicans for believing “that because the undocumented broke the law, they should not be granted citizenship ever.”
In 1997 Serrano was one of 33 original co-sponsors of the Job Creation and Infrastructure Restoration Act, which was introduced into Congress by California Rep. Matthew Martinez. This emergency federal jobs legislation, supported by the New York State Communist Party, was designed to create jobs at union wages in financially foundering cities by putting the unemployed to work on infrastructure projects such as rebuilding schools, housing, hospitals, libraries, public transportation, highways, and parks. Rep. Martinez had already introduced an earlier version of this bill in the previous Congress at the request of the Los Angeles Labor Coalition for Public Works Jobs, whose leaders were known supporters or members of the Communist Party USA.
In 1999 Serrano applauded President Bill Clinton‘s clemency offer to 16 incarcerated members of the FALN, a Marxist-Leninist terror group that had been active in the U.S. from the mid-1970s through the early 1980s, and whose overriding mission was to secure Puerto Rico’s political independence from the United States. Depicting the inmates in question as “political prisoners,” Serrano—along with such notables as Luis Gutierrez, Jesse Jackson, Coretta Scott King, Rigoberta Menchu, Desmond Tutu, and Nydia Velazquez—actively supported the the Pro-Human Rights Committee of Puerto Rico‘s campaign calling for the prisoners’ release.
An open admirer of Fidel Castro, Serrano has praised Cuba’s former dictator as “a great leader for his people.” Denouncing the “backward and counterproductive policy of blockading and isolating the Cuban people,” the congressman has long advocated the normalization of American diplomatic relations with Havana. In July 2003, Serrano sent one of his staffers to Cuba “to examine U.S. policy toward Cuba, the impact of the American trade embargo, and the economy of Cuba.” The cost of the trip was covered by a grant from the Center for Democracy in the Americas, which has close ties to the Institute for Policy Studies.
When Castro stepped down from his position as Cuba’s president in 2008, Serrano praised “this important figure” for “def[ying] the attempts of his critics to paint him simply as a power-hungry authoritarian”; for proving that he “sees clearly the long-term interests of the Cuban people and recognizes that they are best served by a carefully planned transition”; and for “ensuring that the changes he brought about will live on and grow.” “I would like to congratulate both Fidel Castro and the Cuban people for this smooth transition of power,” the congressman expanded. “… It proves that there is a broad base of support for the Cuban system on the island. It also proves that despite constant criticisms, Castro’s revolution was not merely a series of military events in Cuba in the late 1950s and early 1960s, but instead a process that continues to evolve in Cuba today.”
Serrano also favors increasing U.S. federal aid to his native Puerto Rico, which he describes as an American “colony.” He has repeatedly proposed legislation that would call for a referendum allowing Puerto Rico to declare either its independence from the U.S. or its wish to become America’s 51st state.
In 2005 Serrano brokered a deal in which the state-run oil company of Hugo Chavez‘s Venezuela agreed to provide, through its U.S. subsidiary Citgo, some eight million gallons of home heating oil at a discounted rate to low-income residents of the Bronx. When Chavez died in March 2013, Serrano eulogized him as a man who “understood the needs of the poor”; “was committed to empowering the powerless”; “used his unique talents and gifts to try to lift up the people and the communities that reflected his impoverished roots”; “believed that the government of the country should be used to empower the masses, not the few”; “understood democracy and basic human desires for a dignified life”; and sought to ensure “a better life for the poor and downtrodden.”
On September 17, 2009, Serrano was one of only 75 House Members (all Democrats) who voted against a proposal to defund the notoriously corrupt community organization ACORN.
For an overview of Serrano’s voting record on a variety of key issues, click here.
For additional information on Jose Serrano, click here.