Hakeem Jeffries represents the diverse Eighth Congressional District of New York, an area that encompasses large parts of Brooklyn and a section of Queens. Serving his third term in the United States Congress, Rep. Jeffries is a member of the House Judiciary Committee and House Budget Committee.
Rep. Jeffries is a Co-Chair of the House Democratic Policy & Communications Committee, having been elected to that position overwhelmingly by his colleagues in December 2016. In that capacity, he is a member of the Democratic Leadership Team, and helps run the messaging apparatus for the House Democrats. He is also the former Whip of the Congressional Black Caucus, and is a founder of the Criminal Justice & Public Safety Caucus.
In Congress, Rep. Jeffries has emerged as a tireless advocate for social and economic justice. He has worked hard to help residents impacted by the devastation of Superstorm Sandy, reform our criminal justice system, improve the economy for everyday Americans and protect our health care from right wing attacks.
Rep. Jeffries begins each year determined to move forward in a bipartisan manner. In the 115th Congress, Rep. Jeffries worked across the aisle as lead Democratic sponsor to put forth the FIRST STEP Act (H.R. 5682), a strongly bipartisan criminal justice reform bill that passed the House 360-69. This bill will transform lives by providing access to the mental health counseling, education, vocational services and substance abuse treatment needed to help incarcerated individuals get back on their feet and have a second chance. Rep. Jeffries partnered with Congressman Doug Collins, a conservative Republican from rural Georgia, on the legislation.
The FIRST STEP Act shortens sentences by ensuring inmates can earn the 54 days of good time credit per year that Congress intended and applies the change retroactively, which will immediately help thousands of currently incarcerated mothers, fathers, daughters and sons. It provides $250 million over the next five years to expand re-entry programming, including education and vocational training, which dramatically reduces recidivism and helps prepare for a successful transition back into society. The bill requires the Bureau of Prisons to house incarcerated individuals within 500 driving miles of their relatives and permits lower risk inmates to be transferred to home confinement in order to strengthen family relationships. In addition, the FIRST STEP Act bans the immoral practice of shackling women throughout the duration of their pregnancy, during child birth and for three months post-partum.
Rep. Jeffries also played a key role in House passage of the Music Modernization Act (H.R. 5447), a bill that will improve the licensing process so that songwriters, artists and musicians can continue to share their creativity with the world. As a result of the MMA, songwriters are more likely to get paid a fair price for their work, and digital music providers like Spotify and Pandora will be able to operate more efficiently. In an era of crisis and dysfunction in Washington, music had the power to bring Democrats and Republicans in Congress together to collaborate on groundbreaking legislation that ushers the music copyright system into the 21st century.
In April, the President signed the Keep America’s Refuges Operational Act (H.R. 3979) into law, a bill authored by Rep. Jeffries. Each year, 47 million Americans visit wildlife refuges, generating almost $2 billion in local economic activity. This law will keep America’s refuges operational by supporting the volunteers that dedicate thousands of hours to make sure we can all experience the vast natural beauty our great nation has to offer. Passage of this bill was part of a bipartisan, bicameral effort to make certain Americans can visit, explore and study wildlife for generations to come.
Other bills sponsored by Rep. Jeffries that have passed the House of Representatives in the 115th Congress include: H.R. 449, the Synthetic Drug Awareness Act, that directs the Surgeon General to prepare a report on the public health effects of synthetic drug use by teenage Americans; and H.R. 995, the 21st Century Respect Act, which requires the Department of Agriculture and the Department of the Interior to remove racially insensitive terminology from federal regulations, including words like negro, oriental and eskimo. H.R. 3229, which will protect judicial officers from threats, harm and harassment by those who would seek to compromise the integrity of our judicial branch, also passed the House in 2017, and was signed into law as part of the Omnibus spending bill in March 2018. Additionally, the Congressman authored H.R. 3370, the Fry Scholarship Enhancement Act, which became law as part of the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017, and will expand the availability of education benefits to the children and spouses of service members killed in the line of duty.
Last term, Rep. Jeffries teamed up with Congressman Peter King to pass the Slain Officer Family Support Act of 2015, a bill that extended the tax deadline so that individuals making charitable donations to organizations supporting the families of assassinated New York Police Department Detectives Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos could apply such tax deductions to the prior year’s tax return. President Obama signed the legislation into law.
On the heels of a nationwide outcry demanding meaningful police reform, Rep. Jeffries introduced the Excessive Use of Force Prevention Act of 2015, legislation that will make the deployment of a chokehold unlawful under federal civil rights law. The chokehold has been banned by the New York Police Department for more than twenty years, and prohibited or discouraged by several major police departments throughout the country. Yet, it continues to be used by law enforcement, as in the death of Eric Garner. The chokehold is an unnecessary and uncivilized tactic that this bill will make unlawful.
In the 113th Congress, Rep. Jeffries successfully passed H.R. 5108, legislation that established the Law School Clinic Certification Program of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) into law. This program had been operating in a pilot capacity since 2008, and allows students at participating law schools to gain experience in patent and trademark law while providing legal assistance to inventors, tech entrepreneurs and small businesses. The bipartisan bill, which was signed into law by President Obama, expanded the program by removing its “pilot” status, making it available to all accredited law schools in the country that meet the program’s eligibility requirements.
Rep. Jeffries has been actively involved in the passage of a number of other key pieces of legislation, including the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013 (H.R. 152), a bill that provides billions of dollars in Superstorm Sandy recovery to the Eighth District and other affected areas. The Congressman also sponsored -- and passed as part of the National Defense Authorization package -- the Prison Ship Martyrs’ Monument Preservation Act. The law directs the U.S. Secretary of the Interior to study the feasibility of designating the Prison Ship Martyrs’ mausoleum in Brooklyn as a national monument. Consisting of a 100-foot-wide granite staircase and a central Doric column 149 feet in height, the monument in Fort Greene Park houses the remains of 11,500 Revolutionary War soldiers who were kept as prisoners of war by the British.
While he remains committed to working diligently in Washington on behalf of New York’s Eighth Congressional District, Rep. Jeffries also works tirelessly to keep in close contact with constituents. In January, the Congressman begins each year with a well-attended State of the District Address. During the spring and summer, he holds “Congress on Your Corner” outdoor office hours throughout the district. At each stop, the Congressman sets up a table in front of a local post office or on a neighborhood corner and constituents are able to meet with him one-on-one without appointment. He also hosts telephone town hall meetings in the form of regularly-scheduled calls that provide an opportunity for participants to speak directly with the Congressman about local and national issues. On each occasion, thousands of people participate.
Prior to his election to the Congress, Rep. Jeffries served for six years in the New York State Assembly. In that capacity, he authored laws that included protecting the civil liberties of law-abiding New Yorkers during police encounters, encouraging the transformation of vacant luxury condominiums into affordable homes for working families and improving the quality of justice in the civil court system.
In 2010, the Congressman successfully sponsored legislation that prohibits the New York Police Department from maintaining an electronic database with the personal information of individuals who are stopped, questioned and frisked during a police encounter, but not charged with a crime or violation. This law is widely regarded as the first meaningful legislative reform of the police department's aggressive and controversial stop and frisk program. That same year, Rep. Jeffries sponsored and championed groundbreaking civil rights legislation to end prison-based gerrymandering in New York State, a practice that undermined the democratic principle of one person, one vote. With its passage, New York became only the second state in the country to count incarcerated individuals in their home communities for purposes of legislative redistricting, rather than in the counties where they are temporarily incarcerated.
Congressman Jeffries obtained his bachelor’s degree in political science from the State University of New York at Binghamton, where he graduated with honors for outstanding academic achievement. He then received his master’s degree in public policy from Georgetown University. Thereafter, Rep. Jeffries attended New York University School of Law, where he graduated magna cum laude and served on the Law Review.
Following the completion of law school, Congressman Jeffries clerked for the Honorable Harold Baer Jr. of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. He practiced law for several years at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, an internationally renowned law firm, and then served as counsel in the litigation department of two Fortune 500 companies, Viacom Inc. and CBS. He also worked as of counsel at Godosky & Gentile, a well-regarded litigation firm in New York City.
Rep. Jeffries was born in Brooklyn Hospital and raised in Crown Heights. He is a product of New York City’s public school system having graduated from Midwood High School. He currently lives in Prospect Heights with his family.