By Caribbean News Now contributor
WASHINGTON, USA -- US President Barack Obama has nominated Caribbean Latino Thomas Perez, who heads the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, to be the next Secretary of Labor.
If confirmed, Perez will replace Hilda Solis as the head of the Labor Department at a time when the Obama Administration places a heavy emphasis on job creation and on overhauling the nation’s immigration policy.
Perez, whose parents were first generation citizens from The Dominican Republic, was born and raised in Buffalo, New York. He has worked on civil rights issues in a number of government positions, including as labor secretary for the Maryland state government, and as an elected council member for the Washington suburb of Montgomery County, Maryland.
Obama described Perez's career as exemplifying the American success story, noting Perez, the son of immigrants from the Dominican Republic and a graduate of Brown University and Harvard Law School, helped pay for college by working as a garbage collector and in a warehouse. He also spent time working as a special counsel to the late Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy on civil rights, including immigration reform issues. In selecting Perez, Obama presents an American Immigration story of success, whose own struggles and hard work could prove a key asset in advancing the president’s labor and immigration policy.
“Like so many Americans, Tom knows what it’s like to climb the ladder of opportunity,” Obama said with Perez at his side during a ceremony in the East Room on Monday morning.
“He’s the son of Dominican immigrants. He helped pay his way through college as a garbage collector and working at a warehouse. He went on to become the first lawyer in his family.
“So his story reminds us of this country’s promise,” the president added, “that if you're willing to work hard, it doesn't matter who you are, where you come from, what your last name is, you can make it if you try.”