Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez faces a tough confirmation hearing for Secretary of Labor.

Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez faces a tough confirmation hearing for Secretary of Labor. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images )

Latino at Dept of Justice top choice for Labor Secretary, say sources

Thomas Perez,  the Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, is President Obama‘s top choice for Secretary of Labor, according to a person familiar with the selection process, reports the Wall Street Journal.  The Associated Press is reporting the announcement could come as early as Monday.

A source close to the Administration tells NBC Latino the White House has been greatly impressed with Perez’ work in the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ, and said Perez has been on a short list for the position.

The son of Dominican exiles, Perez was raised in Buffalo, New York.  Last year, Perez was instrumental in blocking the voter ID law in Texas. “According to the state’s own data, a Hispanic registered voter is at least 46.5 percent, and potentially 120.0 percent, more likely than a non-Hispanic registered voter” to lack either a driver’s license or a state-issued identification card, which would be required to vote,” wrote Perez to the Texas Director of Elections, as NBC News reported at the time.

Perez also made headlines last year when he announced a lawsuit against Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, asserting a pattern of “unlawful discrimination” toward Latinos regardless of status or citizenship.  Recently LULAC (the League of United Latin American Citizens) awarded Perez with an Outstanding Achievement Award “in recognition of his commitment to civil rights of all Americans.”

Perez’ selection would come at a time when the Administration has lost two of its highest-ranking Hispanics – Labor Secretary Hilda Solís and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. Following Latinos’ record vote for President Obama and increasing political clout, many political observers say having Latinos in the Cabinet matters, for a variety of reasons.

RELATED: After Solis resignation, questions of diversity in Obama Administration

”There are certain things about experience and upbringing you can’t quantify,” said Arizona State political scientist Rodolfo Espino to NBC Latino recently. “For example, Secretary Solis grew up in East L.A.; that’s an experience others in the Cabinet would not have, and while we were not privy to her conversations, a voter can assume her perspective would come up in discussions,” he explained.

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