President Barack Obama had not appointed any Latinos to his second-term cabinet. That was until yesterday, when he finally selected a great Hispanic nominee: attorney Thomas Perez as U.S. labor secretary.
Perez, the current assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, would replace Hilda Solis, who resigned in January. The son of Dominican immigrants, Perez, 51, worked to pay for his law degree from Harvard. He has an impressive career fighting discriminatory practices.
A Hispanic as the head of the Labor Department is make sense considering some of the realities for the nation’s fastest growing population. Among Latinos, unemployment is higher than the average rates for other groups. So are cases involving abuse and discrimination in low-wage industries. For a labor secretary, it is essential to understand and be sensitive to these issues, in order to tackle them.
Despite Perez’s stellar professional record and academic credentials, Republican lawmakers who will be part of the confirmation process have voiced their disapproval.
Some of the concerns raised may mask reservations about immigrants. GOP Senator Jeff Sessions, of Alabama, said “Perez has aggressively sought ways to allow the hiring of more illegal workers” (sic).
This distorted view is probably based on the fact that Perez led the investigation of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio for police targeting of Latinos.
This comment also fails to reflect that Perez’s nomination is supported by worker advocates, such as the AFL-CIO, which is calling for issuing fewer visas to foreign workers.
The negative Republican reaction to this appointment could also be related to Perez having lead investigations of election laws that discriminate against minority voters. Many of these measures have been pushed by or promoted by leaders on the right.
The resistance signals, yet again, a trend that has worked against Republicans: The current GOP still has serious problems including and supporting Hispanics, despite its attempt to take on a more conciliatory tone after the thumping it took in November.
If Perez’s confirmation is blocked, the Latino community will see it as a slap in the face.
The GOP must avoid this, if it wants to prevent another debacle during the 2014 congressional elections.fetada por la comunidad latina.