Earlier this week, the Department of Homeland Security continued their expansion of the Secure Communities program by including all of New York and Massachusetts in the program. Congressman Serrano responded by issuing a statement in opposition to the expansion of the deportation program to the entire state of New York. Serrano, Governor Andrew Cuomo and other leaders in New York have long opposed the controversial program and have worked to withdraw New York from it.
"As we see "Secure Communities' expand to the whole state of New York against our citizens' and elected officials wishes, we continue to call for an immediate suspension of this flawed deportation program. Time and again we see this program splitting up families, deporting immigrants for minor offenses, and generally making our communities less secure. It is increasingly clear that the program is targeting all immigrants, rather than just those involved with violent crimes. It is a dragnet and causes real suffering. It must be ended.
"It was not long ago that I was speaking out in support of Governor Cuomo's decision to try to withdraw New York from this program. I was appalled that after the rollout of the program, in which it was described as optional, we heard from Immigration and Customs Enforcement that in fact they considered it mandatory, and would not respect the Governor's wishes. Neither our city nor our state -- where so many generations of immigrants have arrived -- is interested in participating in a heavy-handed anti-immigrant deportation program. Our wishes should be respected.
"So, I join with the groups protesting today in saying that this program must end and must end now. We do not want to see any more families broken up. We do not want to see any more children living without their parents. Our communities are secure without this horrible program. It must end."
Serrano Opposes Efforts to Roll Back VAWA
On Wednesday, Congressman Serrano voted against H.R. 4970, a partisan bill that rolls back several of the protections previously included in the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
"I am saddened that Republicans have decided to politicize the Violence Against Women Act," said Serrano. "Removing protections for immigrant women is unconscionable, and it not only harms the victims of domestic violence, but it also hurts law enforcement efforts to keep communities safe. Preventing domestic violence has always been a bipartisan issue. I hope that the final bill will put aside partisan wrangling, and include strong protections for all victims of domestic violence, including immigrants."
The Republican bill, while reauthorizing much of VAWA, removed several protections for immigrant women by raising new procedural barriers to reporting domestic violence and by limiting the number of special visas available to immigrant victims of serious crimes. The result is that immigrant women will be less likely to cooperate with law enforcement for fear of deportation, and for fear of further violence at the hands of an abuser.
H.R. 4970 was opposed by hundreds of domestic violence, law enforcement, civil rights, and religious groups. Unfortunately, the bill passed by a vote of 222-205. The Senate has already passed a bipartisan measure that expands protections for immigrant women and the LGBT community.
Serrano Votes to Protect Civil Liberties and End War in Afghanistan
On Friday, Congressman Serrano voted for two important amendments to the National Defense Authorization Bill for fiscal year 2013. The first amendment, introduced by Reps. Justin Amash (MI) and Adam Smith (WA) would have clarified that people in the United States were protected by the Constitution and could not be detained indefinitely without a trial. The second, introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee (CA) would have required the Department of Defense to remove all US combat troops from Afghanistan in a safe and orderly manner. Both amendments were defeated.
"It is astonishing that an amendment that merely re-states protections afforded by the Constitution was defeated," said Serrano. "Wars require difficult choices, but we cannot give up such basic Constitutional protections as the right to a trial and the right not to incriminate oneself. I hope that when this goes to the Senate people return to their senses and we return these basic protections to our laws."
Serrano voted against the overall bill, which passed by 290-120 and now heads to the Senate for its consideration.
In the Bronx
Unveiling Pro-Immigrant Art Made from Anti-Immigrant Bricks
Last Saturday, Congressman Serrano joined Hostos Community College President Dr. Félix Matos Rodríguez, community leaders, and artist Hatuey Ramos-Fermín to unveil a the first part of a newly installed art feature at the Hostos Memorial Plaza. The Conversing Bricks installation, which is in the form of a "wall of hope", is made from bricks that were sent to Members of Congress several years ago in an effort to convince them to build a wall on the U.S. -- Mexico border. The bricks were collected and brought to the Bronx for use in a pro-immigrant art installation--turning their message of intolerance and division into one of hope and reconciliation. Soon, a "table of dialogue" art installation, made from the same bricks, will join the "Wall of Hope" in the plaza.
"I was so pleased to be invited to speak at this important community event, where we reaffirmed our commitment to immigrants' rights, diversity, and community solidarity," said Congressman Serrano. "This art installation takes the worst anti-immigrant messages, and turns them into the message of unity and dialogue; the best message that the immigrant-friendly Bronx has to offer. Here in the Bronx we celebrate immigrants, we defend them, we uplift them, and we welcome them. Our example--a community of immigrants and long-time citizens living together in peace and harmony--should be emulated around the nation. This "wall of hope' and "table of dialogue' will be a constant reminder to the Bronx and the nation as a whole that we are a country of diverse origins, and must be a place of tolerance through dialogue. I commend Hostos Community College, Bill Aguado, and artist Hatuey Ramos-Fermín for their work on this project and their dedication to the message that it contains."
"A round table has no head or foot, no person who sits at it can claim a more important position than the other; thus making everyone equal, the table becomes a symbol of equality for all citizens regardless of their immigration status," said Hatuey Ramos-Fermín, the artist who carried out the installation.
The Conversing Bricks project emerged from a campaign waged by anti-immigrant groups that sent bricks to members of Congress who opposed the construction of a border wall between Mexico and the United States. The bricks were sent with messages like "Build a Wall," "No to Illegals," and "Secure our Borders." Of the thousands of bricks sent to Capitol Hill, 273 were donated for this project. For the past three years, community leaders worked to conceive the concept for Around the Table: Conversing Bricks, now shortened to simply, Conversing Bricks. The bricks are meant to become a public art installation in the form of a wall and a round table with the intention of transforming messages of intolerance into a site for dialogue on issues of citizenship, immigration, and human rights.
The Hostos Community College Memorial Plaza, a public gathering place for students and community members recalls and honors the passengers that died on November 12, 2001 en route to the Dominican Republic in American Airlines Flight 587. The Memorial Plaza includes a water-wall of polished granite inscribed with the names of all that perished. Since its founding days Hostos Community College has welcomed students of all backgrounds. Community leaders felt that the Hostos Community College Memorial Plaza was the best site for the Conversing Bricks art installation.
Ramos-Fermín was awarded a grant from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs Community Arts Development Fund for the public art project Conversing Bricks.
Violence Prevention Grant
Deadline: Jun 28, 2012
The Department of Justice's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, recently announced the availability of grant funding to research how communities can best prevent and reduce violence involving young people. Applicants should have a well-thought out research plan to fill in gaps of understanding about how to best reduce violence and to analyze whether some current approaches are failing to be effective. Institutions of higher education, state and local governments, and nonprofit organizations are all encouraged to apply.