One factoid of possible note in President Obama’s long-expected nomination Monday of assistant attorney general Thomas Perez to be secretary of Labor is that he would be the first person of Dominican heritage — both parents born there — to be named to a cabinet job.
Most prior Latino cabinet members have been of Mexican heritage, starting with Lauro F. Cavazos, President Ronald Reagan’s nominee in 1988 to be secretary of Education.
In 1989, President George Bush named Manuel Lujan to be secretary of Interior. President Bill Clinton’s three Latino appointees were Federico Pena (Transportation and then Energy), Henry Cisneros (Housing and Urban Development) and Bill Richardson, (Energy)
President George Bush II’s 2005 appointment of Cuban-American Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez broke that string. Also that year, he named Mexican-American Alberto Gonzales to be his attorney general.
Obama’s outgoing Secretary of Interior Kenneth Salazar is of Mexican-American heritage and former Labor Secretary Hilda Solis’s parents came from Mexico and Nicaragua.
Another Mexican-born cabinet member, you could even say the first one, was President Richard Nixon’s secretary of Housing and Urban Development George W. Romney.
But, as Mitt Romney noted in his legendary “47 percent” speech, George Romney is not usually included in the ranks of Latinos in the cabinet because, “he was unfortunately born to Americans living in Mexico.”
The Perez pick could be big news in the Dominican Republic, though it will surely be eclipsed if the country’s baseball team makes it to the finals of the World Baseball Classic by beating the Netherlands on Monday and then beating Puerto Rico on Tuesday.