How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

New labor secretary has immigrant advocacy background

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Newly confirmed U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez has a lengthy career history in civil rights, and he also has a background in immigrant advocacy.

The Buffalo, N.Y.-born son of Dominican parents, until now an assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's civil rights division, is a former board president of CASA de Maryland. The prominent advocacy organization was founded in the 1980s to assist Central American war refugees, and today provides legal and social services and is an active voice in the immigration reform movement. The organization posted on its website today:

Mr. Perez is a former President of CASA’s Board of Directors where he led a period of unprecedented growth and maturation of programming. CASA’s almost 40,000 members also benefited from his innovative policy approaches as a Member, then President of the Montgomery County Council, as well as his reforms to the state adult education system when he served as Maryland’s Secretary of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation.

Perez didn't receive such high marks from many Republicans lawmakers, with his nomination this year by President Obama prompting heavy partisan bickering. GOP senators questioned his ethics in his previous job and accused him of being too far to the left. His confirmation succeeded by a 54-46 vote in the Senate along party lines, but only after senators reached an agreement in private that resulted in Democrats abandoning an effort to change filibuster rules.

Perez succeeds Hilda Solis, a Southern California native who vacated the post last year. Perez will be the sole Latino serving as a cabinet member during Obama's second term.

A full biography of Perez is posted on AllGov, which covers the federal government.

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