President Barack Obama is likely to nominate Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, for the open Secretary of Labor position, media reported earlier this week. If confirmed by the Senate, he would take office during a critical moment in which Democrats are pushing for immigration reform and an increase to the minimum wage. Perez is a first-generation Dominican American and would be the only Latino in Obama's cabinet, after the recent resignations of former Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. A former law professor and 12-year civil rights attorney, he previously served as the Director of the Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services during the Clinton administration, and he was special counsel to the late Sen. Edward Kennedy before taking up his current role in 2009. According to ThinkProgress, his most significant contributions to the labor movement include pushing for contractual labor law protections, protecting immigrant workers from losing pay, and fighting human trafficking and other forms of worker exploitation. But some speculate his history of filing lawsuits against law enforcement officials could lead to pushback from Congressional Republicans. From the Los Angeles Times: A Harvard-educated lawyer, Perez is a first-generation Dominican American with a career in public service. His nomination would be welcomed by Democrats and members of organized labor, who see him as a tireless advocate of worker and civil rights. The nomination, which requires Senate confirmation, could face a backlash from Republicans over Justice Department activities. Notably, Perez has filed civil rights lawsuits against law enforcement officials — including one last year against Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the brash Maricopa County, Ariz., lawman. The suit accuses Arpaio's department of a "pattern of unconstitutional conduct" against Latinos in the state, which has led the nation in clamping down on illegal immigrants.
Camille Beredjick is a student of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and a Spring 2013 ITT intern.