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Obama nominates first Latino, Thomas Perez, to new cabinet as Labor Secretary

Thomas Perez is popular with labor and Hispanic groups but will face tough questions over accusations his department was rife with political infighting.

Thomas e perez labor secEnlarge
The White House formally nominated former Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Thomas E. Perez (L) to the position of Labor Secretary on Monday. (SEAN GARDNER/AFP/Getty Images)

The White House formally nominated assistant US Attorney General Thomas E Perez to the position of Labor Secretary on Monday, reports NPR.

Perez, 51, a first-generation Dominican American, is the first Latino nominated to join President Obama's second term cabinet in a seat vacated by Hilda Solis, who resigned in January.

Introducing Perez in the East Room of the White House, President Obama said Perez "knows what it's like to climb the ladder of opportunity."

The former civil rights attorney is popular with labor and Hispanic groups and the White House called him a "pragmatic leader and consensus builder".

According to the National Journal, Perez worked closely with Attorney General Eric Holder on several high profile civil rights cases including a lawsuit filed against famed Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio for what the Justice Department called racial profiling of Latinos in his border county.

Perez's department also stepped up enforcement of human trafficking laws and settled major cases on behalf of families targeted by unfair mortgage lending practices, reports Reuters.

The nomination will help Obama respond to criticism of a lack of diversity in his second term cabinet. Latinos in particular are an influential voting bloc who overwhelmingly supported the President's successful 2012 election bid.

The nomination may be another tough fight for the White House after a critical Inspector General report last week found "numerous and troubling examples of harassment and marginalization of employees and managers" in Perez' voting rights department.

According to the Washington Post, the 258-page report outlined "deep ideological polarization" including "racist and other inappropriate e-mails, Internet postings, blogs, and personal attacks by voting rights lawyers and staffers."

Harvard-educated Perez served in local government in the Washington suburb of Montgomery County, Maryland and later served as labor secretary in Maryland's state government before heading to Washington.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/united-states/130318/obama-nominates-first-latino-thomas-perez-new-ca