Thomas Perez, Illegal Activist and Obama's Civil Rights Officer

Posted: Sep 16, 2009 12:01 AM
Thomas Perez, Illegal Activist and Obama's Civil Rights Officer

In the wake of the Van Jones resignation, is taking a look at a few other characters in Obama’s closet and what their policies could mean for America. First on the list is Thomas Perez, Obama’s nominee to head the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights division.

Perez is one of the last links in the chain for Attorney General Eric Holder, who is revamping the Civil Rights division in the Justice Department after the flood of dismissals and resignations in the division during the Bush administration. At the root of Perez's controversy is partisan disagreement over the politicization of the Department of Justice.

Bush's DoJ prioritized defending those who were wrongfully accused of discrimination as much as they focused on defending minorities who claimed they had suffered from discrimination. This flies in the face of those who believe civil rights laws exist solely to protect minorities, which, as one can imagine, is the modus operandi for Holder’s new Civil Rights division.

Curt Levey at the Committee for Justice explains it this way: “Their feeling is that when it’s used to protect non-minorities is that it's a twisting of the law.”

Obama, Holder, and Perez are keenly focused in on increased enforcement of disparate impact claims – that is, increased meddling of government in business hiring practices, including enforcement of hiring quotas. For example, if an employer makes decisions that result in a lesser percentage of minorities who are hired or promoted – even without that company knowing what the results of those decisions will be ahead of time – that company could be prosecuted.

Perez’s resume is top-notch, but solidly partisan. He is currently a part-time professor at the George Washington School of Public Health and was deputy assistant attorney general for civil rights under Attorney General Janet Reno, two-year director of the office for civil rights at the United States Department of Health and Human Services, and a counsel to the late Senator Edward Kennedy.

Perez is a longtime pro-illegal immigrant activist. He supported the state’s recognition of ID cards issued by Mexico and Guatemala as a valid form of ID for illegal immigrants in the United States, supported the granting of in-state tuition rates to illegals, and provided advice for illegals on how to deal with police. He has advocated for race-conscious admissions to medical school, saying that an increase in minority health care providers is the only way to improve minority health. He believes minorities are better treated by minority health care providers, and that all health care – presumably that practiced by minorities, for minorities – is not just a benefit, but an actual civil right.

The defense of Perez usually comes from those who disliked Attorneys General John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzales’ Civil Rights division and are in favor of Holder’s policies and reforms. The Baltimore Sun said Perez's nomination would usher in a DoJ that "can return to its traditional mission of enforcing anti-discrimination laws and protecting the rights of minorities."

Republicans, most notably Sen. Tom Coburn, have employed parliamentary procedures to block Perez’s installation, but unless there’s some serious intervention, Perez is expected to be installed as soon as cloture is invoked.