Today, the Senate confirmed former Department of Justice official Tom Perez as the next US Secretary of Labor by a 54-46 vote. Perez is the first-ever Dominican-American Cabinet appointee and the first Hispanic Cabinet member in Obama’s second term.
We know Perez best from our days in Alabama shortly after the state began implementing the self-deportation law there, HB 56. Perez, then the assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, came to town to listen to the community about the implications of the anti-immigrant law and to advise folks about their rights.
As our senior adviser Adam Luna recalled about Perez earlier this year, when Perez was first nominated:
Under his leadership, the DOJ set up a civil rights hotline and Perez traveled the state personally speaking with community leaders and community members about working with the DOJ to report abuses. It was great to see an Administration official personally step up like this in Alabama.
Here are other responses to Perez’s confirmation from the immigrant community:
From Gustavo Torres, Executive Director of CASA de Maryland, where Perez once served as former President of the Board of Directors:
Tom’s capacity to match organizational mission with high performing structure and staff is legendary locally and nationally. Workers in America are lucky to have an advocate and change-maker like Tom as Secretary of Labor.
From Johanna Puno Hester, National President of APALA, the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance:
Under Perez’s leadership, the Department of Labor will continue to protect the welfare of American wage earners, immigrant workers and retirees. His personal experience as a child of immigrant parents and his victories on worker’s rights reflect a real understanding and commitment to social justice. We look forward to working closely with him on issues affecting Asian Pacific Americans and communities at-large.
From Deepak Bhargava, Executive Director of the Center for Community Change:
Tom has spent his entire career as a public servant fighting to make sure that the rights of all Americans are protected and enforced. As the son of immigrants from the Dominican Republic, Tom’s story of commitment, dedication and a desire to serve his country is an inspiration to everyone. Perez’s confirmation is a victory for worker rights and everyone who cares about building a better and stronger America.
We applaud the Senate for confirming someone with such a commitment to civil rights. And we look forward to seeing how Tom will use his background and understanding to improve worker rights for everyone, including immigrant workers.
Here’s our wish list for Perez as he takes up his new position:
- Take immediate action to defend the Southern 32 and immigrant labor organizers targeted by ICE agents in the South and elsewhere;
- Play an assertive role in the development of immigration reform legislation that protects the rights of workers; and
- Begin Department-wide planning for immigration reform implementation to ensure that millions of immigrant workers get the fair wages, benefits and safe workplaces they deserve.