Hakeem Jeffries: Moving Forward in a Different Direction

“This is a very important moment in our community,” said Assembly member Hakeem Jeffries as he made his case to represent the 8th Congressional district.  “There are people in this country who wake up each and every day trying to figure out how to advance an agenda that hurts working families, middle-class folks, seniors, and communities of color.” Jeffries wants the opportunity to work with Pres. Barack Obama in his second term. “We must do everything possible to help him help our community.”

Throughout the campaign while Congressman Towns was still in the race, Jeffries consistently stated respect for his 30 years of service, but believes “It is time to move the community forward in a different direction.” For Jeffries, that time is now. “It’s important for our generation to step forward using the skills, education and opportunities that we have been afforded to advance the interests of the community. It is clear that many in my generation would not be where we are today without the sacrifices that have been made by those who struggled in the civil rights era,” said Jeffries. “It is important to us not only to a knowledge that sacrifice, but to be willing to step forward  into the public square and continue advancing the community’s interests that has been done by those who came before us.”

Rated 100% pro-choice, Jeffries is a progressive’s progressive, recognizing civil rights, voting rights, women’s rights, reproductive rights, worker’s rights, and immigration rights are all under attack. “One of the reasons I decided to run for Congress this year is because it is important for those of us who believe in the progressive, inclusive vision for America step forward and pushback against the agenda of the radical right.”

Supporting President Obama’s decision to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Jeffries said, “This is a wonderfully diverse country.”  Jeffries acknowledges the role of African Americans in the fight for dignity and respect for all. “We’ve seen the perils of hatred and division through our own experiences in slavery and Jim Crow South. The African American community, in our struggles, has done a wonderful thing not just for our community, but for the inclusiveness of immigrant communities, communities of color, and people of different sexual orientations, to open up a more inclusive America,” he said. “I think it is important for us to continue to lead that struggle, not just for the African-American community but for everyone else. Racism, sexism, homophobia, and anti-Semitism still exist in our society. We’ve come a long way in this country, but of course we still have a long way to go. The African-American community has always stood up for truth and justice in a more inclusive version of America. In that great tradition I look forward to continuing that work.”

According to Jeffries, dignity includes opportunities to earn a decent living. “We need a serious investment in infrastructure, transportation and green jobs, and rebuilding America’s crumbling economy in ways that would provide good solid strong middle-class jobs. The way that Pres. Franklin Delano Roosevelt helped to get us out of the Great Depression and turned the American economy around was as a result of the new deal investment in infrastructure and building Bridges Roads tunnels, and cars. We need the same type of investment in this country today to help us revive the American economy” Jeffries said. “Pres. Obama is committed to that type of infrastructure investment. But he needs partners in the United States Congress who are willing to work with him, not criticize him, in order to advance his agenda.”

Jeffries characterizes the Republican approach to dealing with the budget as “a slash and burn methodology” that is only designed to help the wealthy and well off. “It is a failed policy that has plunged the economy into recessions in the past. It didn’t work under Pres. George W. Bush. We saw the consequences of Republican policies with the collapse of the economy in 2008. They had complete control of the government and their policies failed,” said Jeffries. “It is the reckless Republican economic policies that got us into the financial mess that Pres. Obama is working hard to clean up.” Jeffries’ approach is reinvestment to strengthen the middle class, particularly in inner-city communities like Bedford Stuyvesant, East New York, Canarsie and beyond “in order to make sure that our children have an opportunity to realize their piece of the American dream.”

No one would be able to accuse Jeffries of going to Congress and becoming a blue dog Democrat. “I look forward to going to Congress joining the Progressive Caucus,” said Jeffries, “along with of course the Congressional Black Caucus, which is often referred to as the conscience of the United States Congress.” Jeffries seeks to stand on the great tradition of African-American legislators like Adam Clayton Powell and Shirley Chisholm who passed historic legislation for the community that also has a great impact on the nation. “That is one of the differences between me and my opponent,” Jeffries said. “I’ve been an effective legislator in Albany passing bills that make a difference for the community I have been privileged to represent, as well as the people all across the city and the state of New York. That is the same aggressive legislative approach that I plan to take down to Washington.”

Hakeem Jeffries takes a firm stance on a variety of policy issues.

Regarding possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act which prohibits the bribing of foreign officials to get business abroad, Jeffries said, “Now is not the time for Wal-Mart to come into our community under a cloud of suspicion shrouded under what appears to be unlawful, reckless, and legal conduct in Mexico. Wal-Mart should be investigated by the US Department of Justice to determine if any of the corporate malfeasance that is apparently taken place outside of this country has occurred within the United States.”

On disparity in immigration policy, Jeffries is calling for a reevaluation of the immigration policy that the United States has with Cuba and compare it to Haiti and other Caribbean nations “to make sure that we are being as fair and favorable as we can possibly be all the island nations of the Caribbean, not just with Cuba because of our animosity towards Fidel Castro.”

Jeffries said the corporate loopholes that allow offshore tax havens must be addressed.  “We have to make sure that United States corporations pay their fair share of taxes so that we get the revenue that we need in order to provide services for communities like Bedford Stuyvesant and other neighborhoods of color throughout New York City and this country,” said Jeffries. “There are clearly significant corporate loopholes and elaborate schemes that individuals and companies are using to evade the lawful payment of United States taxes. That has to change. We need to be aggressive in closing loopholes and making sure that these off shore accounts and safe havens for the escape of tax liability are shut down, closed, and where necessary violators are criminally prosecuted.”

Amnesty for repatriating offshore profits “is classic moral hazard,’ Jeffries said. “There are companies that violate the law then want to extract, as a price for being put into compliance with the law, complete amnesty or immunity. When that occurs all you do is incentivize bad behavior taking place in the future. If there are no consequences then there is no deterrent.” Jeffries said. In addition, he believes outsourced jobs with poor standards, working conditions, compensation, and benefits “suggest that we need to completely reevaluate the interconnectedness of the global economy. This country used to export products. Now we export American jobs.  If we are going to continue to be in the business of exporting American jobs to other parts of the world, the future of our country will not be as bright as it should be for generations to come. The president, I believe, is genuinely concerned about a re-ordering of the American economy in order to promote and create good paying jobs here at home.”

Jeffries supports the approach that the president took in Libya, specifically as it relates to the situation to Moammar Gadaffi. “Gadaffi was fleecing his people. He did not treat indigenous Africans well. They were shut out of any economic prosperity that was created by Libyan oil. The indigenous Africans were perhaps the most oppressed group in Libya,” said Jeffries. “It is reckless and irresponsible to suggest Moammar Gadhaffi was a friend to the indigenous African people. He was an enemy to the indigenous African people.  Getting rid of him will open up an opportunity for those indigenous African to realize some measure of economic prosperity that was denied them under his dictatorship.  I do believe that we should push Pres. Obama to be more proactive in helping Africa realize its economic potential. That is something I am committed to do when I get elected to Congress.”

Jeffries is proud to have passed only meaningful piece of legislation designed to reform the NYPD’s stop and frisk activities which is eliminated the electronic database that was being maintain order more than 1 million innocent law-abiding New Yorkers, the overwhelming majority of whom were Black and Latino folk in communities like Bedford Stuyvesant. “In a democracy there must be a balance between effective law-enforcement on the one hand and healthy respect for our civil rights and civil liberties on the other. The NYPD stop and frisk program is out of control. This was a disgraceful practice and it was subjecting individuals to permit a criminal surveillance and suspicion,” said Jeffries. “More of course needs to be done. As a member of Congress I plan on aggressively pushing the United States Department of Justice to investigate the systematic civil rights abuses that take place each and every day as a result of the stop and frisk practices of the NYPD.  The USDOJ is investigating police in Detroit, Newark, Prince George’s County, San Juan, and New Orleans. The same DOJ should at least open a preliminary inquiry an investigation into the credible allegations of fourth amendment violations that take place in Black and Latino communities all across NYC.”

Jeffries is also concerned about crime victims in our communities. “The violence in the black community is out of control. There are far too many individuals who remain nameless as to what they have had to endure. This is particularly the case among black women who disproportionately suffer from crime that occurs but whose voices are not heard to make sure the criminal justice system works for them and not against them,” Jeffreis said. “On the federal level, it is unfortunate that the Violence Against Women Act has not yet been reauthorized. We have got to find a way of standing up for women of all races, but particularly for black women who live in high crime communities and who often not given the relief that other victims of crime receive. They should receive the relief they deserve.”


Originally published in Our Time Press, May 17, 2012