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News and culture through the lens of Southern California. Hosted by A Martínez

Obama taps former civil rights attorney Thomas Perez to head Labor Dept.

by Take Two®

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Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Thomas E. Perez (L) discusses the Federal Consent Decree with Attorney General Eric Holder at Gallier Hall on July 24, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The signing of the federal consent decree was designed to clean up a police force that had been plagued by decades of corruption and abuse. Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Thomas E Perez, who heads up the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department, has been picked to replace Hilda Solis as Labor Secretary. The son of Dominican immigrants is the first Latino to be nominated to the President's second term cabinet.

Introducing him in the East Room of the White House, Obama said Perez "knows what it's like to climb the ladder of opportunity," and has been "consensus builder" working alongside Attorney General Eric Holder.  

"Tom's knowledge and experience will make him an outstanding Secretary of Labor," Obama said. "We are going to have to work very hard to make sure that folks find jobs with good wages and good benefits. We got to make sure that our veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan have a chance to put their incredible skills and leadership to work at home. We need to build an immigration system that works for every employee and every family and every business. I am confident that Tom is going to be able to promote economic growth, but also make sure that that growth is broad-based."

Perez then thanked the President in Spanish and said he would use his position to fight for the rights of immigrant workers and reach across the aisle to work with Republicans. 

"Over my career, I have found that true progress is possible if you keep an open mind, listen to all sides and focus on results," Perez said Monday. 

The nomination comes just a week after the Inspector General issued a scathing report of Perez' civil rights division, saying it "suffers from deep ideological polarization" and a "disappointing lack of professionalism" including harassing of colleagues with opposing political views and leaks of sensitive case information.

Matt Vasilogambros, who covers the White House for the National Journal, tells Take Two that some Senate Republicans are already gearing up for a confirmation fight. 

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