The head of the Department of Justice’s civil rights division, Thomas Perez is expected to be President Barack Obama’s pick to serve as the next labor secretary. Sources report that Perez would be the likely pick, but the White House has declined to confirm whether the reports are true. If the appointment of Perez goes through, Perez will be the only Latino in President Obama’s second-term cabinet.
The reports of Perez’s impending appointment may be due to pressure by Latino groups demanding Obama’s administration appoint Latinos to fill vacant seats in the cabinet. Back in January, The National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (or NHLA)—an association of 30 advocacy groups—sent a letter to Obama back in January that contained a list of 18 names of Latinos they recommended for cabinet seats. Perez was one of the names upon the list.
Hector E. Sanchez, Chair of the NHLA, wrote in the letter that “with the Latino community heading into the epicenter of an historic policy debate around immigration reform, and related policies, your Cabinet can ill-afford to not have the unique perspective and voice of high-level Latino members,” and added that, “At this critical time our voices need to be amplified, not diminished.”
The first-generation son to Dominican parents and a graduate from Harvard Law, Perez, 51, has a long career in government service that pertained to addressing issues involving the Latino community. Last year, Perez gained notoriety when the Justice Department filed a civil-rights lawsuit against Joe Arpaio, sheriff in Arizona’s Maricopa County, alleging that his department had been discriminating against Latinos in the county.
Before a group of reporters in May 2012, Perez addressed the matter stating, “The police are supposed to protect and serve our communities, not divide them. At its core, this is an abuse of power case involving a sheriff and sheriff’s office that disregarded the Constitution, ignored sound police practices, comprised public safety, and did not hesitate to retaliate against perceived critics.”
Although Perez may be the only Latino in Obama’s cabinet during his second-term, President Obama has selected other Latinos to sit in key administration seats. Edith Ramirez is just one Latino who was given the chair of Federal Trade Commission. A decision should be made soon regarding whether or not Perez will be the new labor secretary.