The Department of Justice took on Sherriff Joe in Arizona, this was the first time I heard about Thomas. My positive impression of him was developed when he spoke at the 2011 NCLR (National Council of La Raza) conference. Tom spoke with passion; he commanded and held my attention. He discussed some of his cases, such as discrimination against renters of color. He spoke as if it hurt him as a person. I didn’t know of his admirable academic and professional achievements. I didn’t know he was the son of Dominican immigrants. He went on to receive his Juris Doctor cum laude from Harvard Law School and a Master of Public Policy from the John F. Kennedy School of Government in 1987.
So I investigated when Perez’s nomination for Secretary of Labor was stalled. Senator Mitch McConnell said Tom was a “left-wing ideologue who appears perfectly willing to bend the rules to achieve his ends.”Texas Senator Ted Cruz voted against his nomination because he ‘lacks respect for the rule of law in his efforts to reach misguided justice.’ Florida Senator Marco Rubio opposed his nomination stating “intellect and work ethic are not sufficient qualifications for a Cabinet secretary.” He wasn’t nominated for Pope, so what did he do? Rubio tweeted about Perez and the Dept. of Justice’s attempt to prosecute a “Pro-life sidewalk counselor.” A what? My interpretation is a person who uses the first amendment as an excuse to harass women walking on public sidewalks to a clinic. So, these alleged counselors don’t simply picket for their pro-life opinions anymore; they harass, in your face style. Are they even qualified counselors? What if the person is carrying a dead fetus or doesn’t want counsel? I applaud Thomas for his efforts, even if it failed. What if a person offers sidewalk counseling to those seeking a blood transfusion, or seeking to circumcise or vaccinate their child? What does this have to do with labor? Is Tom’s opposition afraid of someone who performs their job to the full extent? He was, after all, in the Department of Justice. Does justice only belong to those who share a certain religious or political ideology?
Regardless, on July 23, 2013 Thomas E. Perez will take the office previously held by Hilda L. Solis. She was a champion of workers in my opinion. I became a fan when she took office and immediately sought to overturn the Bush-Chao H-2A visas out the door regulations which allowed growers to pay farm workers lower wages. When I heard Hilda speak, I felt she cared about laborers and the economy; they’re not mutually exclusive. Hilda hired more people for enforcement, resulting in fines for missed wages and child labor law violations. She also increased job training programs and tackled the rising unemployment rates. Hilda is tough act to follow but I have faith Thomas will bring passion to the task at hand. Even Marco Rubio couldn’t deny his work ethic.
Julia Perez is an electrical engineer and contributing writer for Being Latino