Labor Secretary Nominee Perez Flouts Labor, Immigration Laws

Thomas Perez embodies ethnic identity radicalism. Whether the U.S. Senate has the courage to challenge him is yet unknown. President Obama yesterday nominated Perez for Secretary of Labor. As the Department of Justice’s assistant attorney general for civil rights since October 2009, Perez has promoted a hard-charging egalitarianism that goes even beyond that of first-term Obama Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, who resigned in January. His “Third World First, America Last” worldview comes with hefty baggage. He’s persuaded the Justice Department to dismiss its case against Black Panther members accused of menacing white voters and poll watchers in Philadelphia on Election Day 2008. He’s led shakedowns of banks based on spurious claims of discrimination. And well before assuming his DOJ post, Perez headed a Maryland group that promotes illegal immigration.

The announcement came as no surprise. On Sunday, March 10, the word leaked out across a wide range of media outlets that President Obama had decided upon Perez as the nation’s next labor secretary. At today’s news conference in the White House East Room (see photo, with Perez on right) – whose audience included AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, NAACP President Benjamin Jealous and Reverend Al Sharpton – the president described the nominee as a “consensus builder.” That’s a rather odd term for someone who has gone out of his way to be polarizing even by DOJ civil-rights enforcer standards. Pouring on the sentimental puffery, Obama elaborated:

Like so many Americans, Tom knows what it’s like to climb the ladder of opportunity. He is the son of Dominican immigrants. He helped pay his way through college as a garbage collector and working at a warehouse. He went on to become the first lawyer in family. So his story reminds us of this country’s promise, that if you’re willing to work hard, it doesn’t matter where you come from, what your last name is – you can make it if you try.

None of this, of course, has anything to do with Perez’s qualifications to become labor secretary. Narratives and platitudes, noble or otherwise, moreover, can’t disguise Perez’s far-Left sensibility, something National Legal and Policy Center discussed at length, in 2010 and again last year, albeit in the context of a separate issue. Given the current context, his background and views require a far more detailed dissection. For Perez, contrary to what some might think, is not a conventional liberal – far from it. He is instead a zealot for the radical politics of ethnic grievance that travels under such terms as “civil rights,” “multiculturalism” and “diversity.” Indeed, that’s a major reason why he’s managed to climb the ladder of which the president spoke. Perez sees America as a nation rife with racism, ethnocentrism, sexism, and homophobia. One can be certain that as labor secretary he would be unrelenting in bringing employers, especially nonunion ones, to heel. And his Hispanic identity, like that of Solis, is utterly central to his sense of mission. Perez, in other words, isn’t just an affirmation action hire; he’s an affirmative action warrior.

Even before it became official, the selection of Thomas Perez as secretary of labor invited widespread and justifiable opprobrium. It’s not as if he lacks credentials or life experiences. A longtime resident of Takoma Park, Md., Perez, now 51, was born and raised in Buffalo, N.Y. to Dominican immigrants – his late father was an Army and a VA doctor – who had fled the brutal regime of Rafael (“El Jefe”) Trujillo. “The United States gave them opportunities even though this was their adopted homeland,” he recalls. “They would tell me how much they loved this country and how it was important for me to be involved.” This idea of America as a global sanctuary, not just a nation, is his unifying theme, personally and politically; it is little coincidence that his home of Takoma Park in 1985 became the nation’s first ‘sanctuary city’ for illegal immigrants. Perez attended Brown University, receiving a B.A. in political science in 1983, and then went on to Harvard, where in 1987 he would earn both a law degree and a master’s in public policy.

Perez’s career has been primarily geared toward government service. He spent all of 1989-2001 in the executive or the legislative branch of the federal government. He initially served as a prosecutor during the George H.W. Bush administration in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, the same division he’s headed for the past three and a half years. Then, from 1995 to 1998, he served as the main adviser on civil rights and criminal justice issues to Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass. After that stretch, Perez returned to the Justice Department at a higher rank – as deputy assistant attorney general under Attorney General Janet Reno. After serving for a couple years, he closed out the Clinton era as head of the civil rights office at the Department of Health and Human Services. During the administration of George W. Bush, Perez cut his teeth in academia and Maryland politics. He joined the faculty at the University of Maryland law school where he remained until 2007. Later that year he became a professor at the George Washington University School of Public Health, where he since has remained. In the meantime, he served as a member of the Montgomery County Council during 2002-06 and then as Secretary of Labor, Licensing and Regulation for the State of Maryland under current Democratic Governor Martin O’Malley during 2007-09.

Well-credentialed and workaholic, Perez appears exceptionally qualified to serve as U.S. Secretary of Labor. Yet he is anything but. Explaining why requires a hard look beneath the surface. In essence, there are three reasons why Perez’s nomination should raise red flags.

First, his nomination would signify that the Obama administration remains committed to the principle of affirmative action, or to use the more benign term, “diversity.” With the departure of Hilda Solis as labor secretary and Ken Salazar as interior secretary, President Obama, himself an affirmative action beneficiary, had faced the prospect of having no Hispanics in his second administration, a prospect of which Hispanic pressure groups and their allies frequently reminded him. Granted, secretary of labor since the late Eighties has been a de facto diversity slot. Of the last seven persons to serve, six have been women and/or “ethnic” nonwhites. (The lone white male, Robert Reich, who served during President Clinton’s first term, could be considered an affirmative-action disability hire on the basis of his 4’11” height). By naming Perez as the new DOL secretary, President Obama has mollified his critics from the Left. Hispanic advocacy groups have taken notice. Last Monday, New York State Senator Adriano Espaillat, D-Washington Heights, leader of the U.S. League of Dominican-American Elected Officials, had this to say: “Thomas Perez is a true American success story, and an inspiration to the nearly 1.5 million people of Dominican heritage living in our country…Perez is already a role model for children of Dominican heritage, but his confirmation as U.S. Secretary of Labor will be nothing short of a milestone for our community.” Apparently, professional qualifications are of passing concern.

Second, Perez’s public pronouncements define him as a radical of the most clichéd, unctuous and ludicrous sort. He speaks of illegal immigrants “living in the shadows”; “our Muslim-American brothers and sisters subject to post-9/11 backlash”; “communities of color disproportionately affected by the subprime meltdown”; and “LGBT (i.e., lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered) brothers and sisters…forced to confront discrimination.” He believes that bankers who reject credit applications by members of racial minority groups are like Klansmen, the only difference being that bankers discriminate with “a smile” and “fine print.” Otherwise, they are “every bit as destructive as the cross burned in the neighborhood.” It would seem to Perez that everyone in America, save for white males, are persecuted victims awaiting their full measure of justice. And he brings an inquisitional enthusiasm to his work. “We have a very broad, a very ambitious vision,” he remarked in 2010 with respect to his role as the Justice Department’s chief civil rights enforcer. “It’s a very exciting vision, and I wake up every morning with a hop in my step.” As secretary of labor, Perez no doubt would make employers hop with fear if he suspected “discrimination” on their part.

Third, and most importantly, Thomas Perez doesn’t just ‘talk the talk,’ he ‘walks the walk.’ He repeatedly has put his radical egalitarianism into action. Here are some of the more prominent examples.

Voting Rights Act. Assistant Attorney General Perez has led the Justice Department’s opposition to proposed Census-based redistricting in Alabama, Florida, Texas and elsewhere pursuant to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The state-drawn maps, he insists, are intended to disenfranchise minorities. That the redistricting is intended to prevent election fraud apparently means little. Perez is going to the mat to ensure that the “preclearance” requirements related to Section 5 of the Act remain intact. These requirements stipulate that certain U.S. jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination – most or all in the South – can’t modify their voting laws without special permission from either the Justice Department or a three-judge panel in the District of Columbia. Congress in 2006 extended Section 5 for another 25 years. Attorney General Eric Holder and his civil-rights chieftain Thomas Perez last year made the most of the opportunity to block various redistricting plans.

At least one jurisdiction, Shelby County, Alabama, is resisting. In Shelby County v. Holder, county officials have appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court a decision last May by the District of Columbia federal appeals court affirming the constitutionality of Sections 4(b) and 5 (the High Court heard arguments late in February). Opponents argue, with ample evidence, that Congress had exceeded its authority, as it was based on a woefully outdated understanding of reality. Even supporters say as much. Writing the 8-1 majority opinion in Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. 1 v. Holder, a 2009 ruling that upheld the continuation of Section 5 but allowed the plaintiff to apply for an exemption, Chief Justice John Roberts admitted the section’s coverage formula “is based on data that is now more than 35 years old, and there is considerable evidence that it fails to account for current political conditions.” Thomas Perez remains undaunted: “(W)e have made a very conscious effort to focus our resources on ensuring the continuing viability of Section 5.”

Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Last May, Perez and DOJ Civil Rights Division prosecutors filed racial profiling charges against Joe Arpaio, the Republican sheriff of Maricopa County (metropolitan Phoenix), Ariz. The suit followed a three-year investigation into whether the county had violated the civil rights of Hispanics. Mass-immigration enthusiasts have put a target on Sheriff Arpaio’s back since he was first elected in 1992. They’ve despised him even more since 2005, when he instituted certain get-tough approaches to stem the explosive growth in illegal immigration and accompanying crime, almost all of it coming from Mexico. Thomas Perez and his boss, Eric Holder, have spared no expense in trying to get the goods on Arpaio. While the colorful Arpaio has pulled some highly questionable publicity stunts during his tenure, that in and of itself doesn’t justify the DOJ ‘racial profiling’ crackdown. According to Arpaio’s office, all persons arrested for using stolen IDs in 57 separate raids as of March 2012, were illegal immigrants.

Aside from the urgency of the issue is the fact that Sheriff Arpaio is supplementing, not supplanting, federal law. According to federal law, any law enforcement officer in the country – federal, state or local – has the authority to stop a person based on a reasonable suspicion that the person is in the country illegally and ask that individual to show proof of citizenship or legal residence. What typically is called ‘ethnic profiling’ is little more than the application of common sense. So why do most cops avoid asking suspects about their citizenship? There are two main reasons: 1) ‘sanctuary’ ordinances enacted by many U.S. cities make it virtually impossible to apprehend, let alone deport, a suspected illegal immigrant in those jurisdictions; and 2) cops fear bad publicity and lawsuits of the sort befalling Sheriff Arpaio. The “controversial” Arizona and Alabama laws authorizing stopping suspected illegal immigrants about their residential status merely add state penalties to what already is a federal offense, and for that matter, an offense in other countries as well. Thomas Perez, however, sees only injustice. Of Alabama’s law, he wrote last year: “(The law has) diminished access to and quality of education for many of Alabama’s Hispanic children, resulted in missed days, chilled or prevented the participation of parents in their children’s education, and transformed the climates of some schools into less safe and welcoming spaces for Hispanic children.” Upholding the law would appear to be of little or no concern if it conflicts with advancing Hispanic interests.

St. Paul, Minn. lawsuit. Thomas Perez’s enthusiasm for punishing actions having a ‘disparate impact’ on racial minorities extends to local government. Last September, as NLPC reported, the City of St. Paul. Minn. unexpectedly withdrew its appeal of a February 2012 federal circuit court decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. The case, known as Magner v. Gallagher, grew out of an allegation that St. Paul’s aggressive enforcement of its housing code had a disparate impact against minorities. A group of local landlords, led by Thomas Gallagher, invoked the Fair Housing Act to invalidate the enforcement procedure, though not the code itself. City officials, led by Vacant Property Manager Steve Magner, moved to have the case dismissed. A district court granted the motion, arguing, sensibly, that the code enforcement was not discriminatory. Gallagher appealed, and a circuit court sided with him and denied Magner’s request for a rehearing. Magner and other city officials, in response, filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court, which in turn granted the plaintiffs certiorari. But the city, mysteriously, pulled out.

The mystery was traceable to the U.S. Department of Justice. A group of ranking members of Congress, based on available information, sent Attorney General Holder a letter in September stating: “Mr. (Thomas) Perez fretted that a decision in the city’s favor would dry up the massive mortgage lending settlements his division was obtaining by suing banks for housing discrimination based on disparate effects rather than any proof of intent to discriminate.” The letter accused the department of making a quid pro quo deal: The City of St. Paul would drop its appeal and the Justice Department would refrain from intervening in a separate $180 million whistle-blower lawsuit against the City that invoked the False Claims Act. In other words, Thomas Perez helped put the squeeze on the City so the Justice Department could exert more leverage in shaking down mortgage lenders across the country.

Bank shakedowns. Perez has been unrelenting in his desire to use the doctrine of ‘disparate impact’ to punish major banks for allegedly engaging in discrimination against racial/ethnic minorities in mortgage lending. As NLPC had argued last July, he and his band of prosecutors have coerced consent decrees from Bank of America, SunTrust and Wells Fargo for lending practices which, though not racial in intent, had the effect of creating racial disparities. Under ‘disparate impact,’ a doctrine established by the Supreme Court in 1971 in Griggs v. Duke Power Co., the Justice Department merely has to show that statistical differences in outcomes between what is and what should be are normatively unacceptable. The Obama administration fully supports this view of the law. Lenders typically settle out of court because they fear the consequences of losing in court and being forced to pay outsized jury awards. These “settlements” amount to race-based credit allocation all but in name.

Last summer’s settlement between Perez’s prosecutors and Wells Fargo & Co. was an especially egregious example. The San Francisco-based bank, though not formally admitting wrongdoing, agreed to fork over $175 million to mortgage borrowers — $125 million in damages for overcharges and $50 million in future down payment assistance for loans in “underserved” areas. That doesn’t even include the $3 million and $432.5 million that Wells Fargo agreed to pay, respectively, to the City of Baltimore and the City of Memphis/County of Shelby, Tenn. to resolve separate lawsuits. Raiding companies with deep pockets to promote equality of outcomes is Perez’s style. It’s going to continue at the Department of Labor if he gets to run it.

Casa de Maryland. Subsidizing housing, education and social services for persons who have no business being in this country might not seem in the spirit of consensus-building. But Thomas Perez believes it’s a good idea. In fact, he’s done a lot more than simply believe. During his stint in the Clinton Justice Department, Perez established a “Worker Exploitation Task Force” to enhance working conditions for workers illegally in the U.S. On the side, he did volunteer work at a nonprofit, Casa de Maryland, founded in 1985 to facilitate Takoma Park’s role as an illegal immigration sanctuary. During the last decade he rose to become the group’s president, tirelessly fighting for subsidizing a wide range of benefits for illegal immigrants, rarely, if ever, hesitating to file lawsuits. Among other things, benefits have meant in-state college tuition discounts, driver’s licenses, and subsidies for day labor centers. Casa de Maryland has gone the extra mile to block enforcement of deportation orders and prevent coordination of post-9/11 federal, state and local databases. It played a central role, in fact, in persuading President Obama last June to announce the indefinite suspension of deportations of some 800,000 persons who would be eligible to remain here under the never-enacted DREAM Act, thus bypassing congressional approval. And it’s a lead player in the push for amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants.

Casa de Maryland, which nearly three years ago moved from its original headquarters in Takoma Park to its more spacious digs in Langley Park, Md., gets substantial funds from government. In 2010 alone, state and local governments in Maryland provided $5 million. And that’s not including money from churches and philanthropies, including the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the United Way, and multibillionaire George Soros’ Open Society Institute. In 2008, the group received a whopping $1.5 million payment from CITGO, which for years has operated as an arm of the Venezuelan government whose own “Jefe,” Hugo Chavez, recently passed away. Maryland Democratic Governor Martin O’Malley, for one, is a huge fan of Casa de Maryland. He remarked at the Langley Park opening: “In our Maryland, there’s no such thing as a spare American.” For the record, he was present at yesterday’s White House nomination ceremony for Thomas Perez.

Black Panther voter intimidation in Philadelphia. Of all “projects” of Thomas Perez, this one arguably ranks as the most egregious. On November 4, 2008, Election Day, video footage was released to various news outlets clearly showing members of a paramilitary group, the New Black Panther Party (NBPP), standing in front of the entrance to a local polling station in north Philadelphia in semi-military uniforms menacingly accosting white people likely to enter the premises. The NBPP claimed their members were there to provide “security.” Yet according to one eyewitness, one of the party members, King Samir Shabazz, carried a billy club and pointed it at white voters as he and another man shouted epithets such as “white devil” and “You’re about to be ruled by the black man, cracker.” On January 6, 2009, with President Obama’s inauguration less than two weeks away, Justice Department prosecutors filed a civil suit against the party itself and three leading members, Malik Zulu Shabazz, King Samir Shabazz and Jerry Jackson. Yet despite the apparently damning footage and testimony, Obama Attorney General Eric Holder in May 2009, with a minimum of publicity, narrowed the charges against King Shabazz and dropped them entirely against Jackson and NBPP.

As it turned out, Thomas Perez, who assumed his post in October 2009, had more than a little to do with the cover-up after the case was dropped. Back in June, after the Justice Department had abandoned its case, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights launched an inquiry into the department’s decision. But the department, from Holder on down, proved highly uncooperative. In December 2009, with Perez now in office, the commission subpoenaed J. Christian Adams and Christopher Coates, respectively, the trial attorney and lead attorney in the prosecution, to testify as to why the case had been dismissed. Suddenly, the Justice Department intervened, telling Adams and Coates not to testify. The department rationalized that the authority to prosecute lay with the department, and not with the Civil Rights Commission. Each stepped down. Perez transferred Coates to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in South Carolina and disallowed him from testifying before the commission. His reason: Coates’ presence in South Carolina rendered him an inappropriate witness to testify. Does the term “self-fulfilling prophecy” come to mind?

Adams, at least, did get to testify. He stated, bluntly: “I was told by voting section management that cases are not going to be brought against black defendants on [behalf] of white victims.” He also stated that lawyers who recommended narrowing the case had not even read the applicable documents and that his own supervisors had instructed him and other lawyers in the voting section not to bring cases against minority offenders. Rebutting the claim that the Philadelphia incident was “isolated,” Adams said: “To the contrary, the Black Panthers in October 2008 announced a nationwide deployment for the election. We had indications that polling-place thugs were deployed elsewhere, not only in November 2008, but also during the Democratic primaries, where they targeted white Hillary Rodham Clinton supporters.” Astonishingly, Perez stated there was insufficient evidence to warrant further investigation. In effect, Perez used his office as cover for club-wielding black street thugs in the service of vote suppression. A lengthy report (see pdf) released this month by the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General reveals just how demoralizing and polarizing an influence Perez and his allies have been on the department’s voting rights section.

Any one of these cases point to Thomas Perez as unfit to become the nation’s next labor secretary. His vision is deeply anti-American, and though a lawyer, he has shown a predilection, time and again, to ignore rule of law, if not to break the law outright. The case against him is more than convincing; it is overwhelming. Organized labor, not unexpectedly, supports him. “The AFL-CIO believes Perez would bring the skills and passion working people need to an important agency,” said Jeff Hauser, a spokesman for the Washington, D.C.-based labor federation. If that’s so, then it’s a highly misguided set of skills and passions. Far from being a “consensus builder,” as President Obama rhapsodized today, he’s an anti-white ethnic politician of an extreme sort. His interest in labor law and policy appears to extend no further than compensating the uncountable “victims” of white America.

At least a few Republicans find Perez’s track record troubling. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is one of them. He explains his opposition this way: “This is an unfortunate and needlessly divisive nomination. The top priority of the secretary of labor should be to create jobs and higher wages for American workers. But Mr. Perez has aggressively sought ways to allow the hiring of more illegal workers. Mr. Perez has also had a controversial tenure at the Department of Justice where he has demonstrated a fundamental political approach to the law.” Perez’s views on illegal immigration, added Sen. Sessions, “are far outside the mainstream.” Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, Ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, also has problems with the nominee. Speaking about his role in the St. Paul case, he said, “I shudder to think how whistle-blowers will be treated in the Labor Department if this quid pro quo with St. Paul is any indication of Mr. Perez’s approach to this important area of law.”

Secretary of Labor is a position that normally doesn’t invite controversy during the confirmation stage or beyond. Even Hilda Solis, despite her own obvious leanings as a Hispanic ethnic politician, wasn’t so polarizing. Neither is current Acting Secretary Seth Harris, Hilda Solis’ chief deputy. But Thomas Perez invites not so much scrutiny as outright alarm. Indeed, his track record can be called disgraceful on every level, both in his views and his approach to enforcing the law. Three and a half years ago the U.S. Senate approved his nomination for his current Justice Department position by a 72-22 margin. That was an uncomfortably wide margin. Hopefully, this time around the opposition to his Labor Department nomination will be large and mobilized enough to defeat it.


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