Thomas Perez, a civil rights lawyer in the Obama Justice Department, is about to be nominated to be the new Secretary of Labor, setting the stage for some key battles that the president expects to fight in his second term. President Obama is planning to announce the appointment on Monday, and if confirmed, would make Perez the only Latino member of his second-term cabinet.
Perez's current job is heading up the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice, which made him a point person on cases involving voting rights, racial profiling, and discrimination from law enforcement. Perez led a still-ongoing lawsuit against Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County in Arizona, accusing his office of a pattern of abuse directly against Latinos in his border state. He also took part in a massive home loan discrimination lawsuits, that's already being dredged up by Republican Senator Charles Grassely as a strike against the nominee.
President Obama has already announced his plans to overhaul the immigration system this year, a process that promises to be an emotional and contentious one with Congress, and one that the new Labor Secretary will have to play important part in. Republicans in Congress have also had numerous battles with the Justice Department duing the first four years of the Obama presidency, so even if he is approved, a Perez confirmation hearing could become an opportunity to rehash those old (and not-so-old) grievances.