By Griselda Nevarez, Voxxi
A coalition of 30 Latino groups recently joined under the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA) to send Obama a letter, calling on the president to appoint three Latinos to his cabinet.
The coalition—which includes the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), and the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA)—also listed in the letter 19 Latinos it “strongly” recommends for cabinet positions.
“We’ve offered up some very qualified names to the president for consideration,” Brent Wilkes, executive director of LULAC, told VOXXI. “I can’t tell you who, but I know for sure that there are some that are being actively considered for positions in the cabinet.”
Wilkes added that having Latinos appointed to the Obama cabinet would help the president “better serve the Latino community.” He explained that’s because the Latino cabinet members could help Obama understand how certain policies would impact Latinos as well as weigh in on issues important to Latinos.
The list of candidates the NHLA is recommending for the Obama cabinet includes Latinos who are currently serving in the Obama administration as well as members of Congress and Latinos who have served in the private and public sectors.
Among the top Latinos who have high possibilities of being considered for the Obama cabinet is Francisco J. Sanchez, the under secretary of Commerce for International Trade. Sanchez is currently the highest-ranking Latino serving in an economic policy position and a strong candidate to be Secretary of Commerce or for the top position of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.
Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, is another Latino who has high chances of being appointed to a cabinet position. Perez, who previously served as the Secretary of Maryland’s Department of Labor, is being recommended by several Latino leaders for the Secretary of Labor position.
Also being recommended for the Secretary of Labor position is U.S. Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.), who is a former labor lawyer.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has also been rumored to be a top contender for the Secretary of Transportation position. Villaraigosa will step down July 1 after serving two terms as mayor of L.A. He recently chaired the Democratic National Convention and served as a co-chair of Obama’s reelection campaign.
All four of these Latinos are included in the list of 19 Latinos recommended by the NHLA for cabinet positions. Also included in that list are Richard Carmona, former U.S. Surgeon General and former Democratic U.S. Senate candidate in Arizona; Cesar Conde, president of Univision Communications, Inc.; and Vilma Socorro Martinez, U.S. ambassador to Argentina.
Besides Rep. Sanchez, the members of Congress the NHLA is recommending for cabinet positions include Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Rep. Nydia M. Velazquez (D-N.Y.).
Former U.S. Rep. Charlie Gonzalez (D-Texas) is also recommended by NHLA for a cabinet position. However, Gonzalez indicated he is not interested in joining the Obama cabinet and wishes to be back home in San Antonio.
“You have to be flattered that you make any list today at that level of service to this country, but my government service is over,” he told VOXXI.
Latino leaders began calling on Obama to appoint Latinos to his cabinet soon after the resignations of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis—the only Latinos in the Obama cabinet.
In recent days, the president has announced several cabinet nominations. And on Monday, while he was at the U.S. Capitol for his inauguration, he signed the paperwork to formally nominate three new members of his cabinet. The cabinet nominations include Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense, John Kerry to be Secretary of State and Jack Lew to be Secretary of the Treasury. Obama also nominated John Brennan to head the CIA.
Hector Sanchez, chair of the NHLA, noted that none of the people Obama has nominated to his cabinet are Latinos. However, Sanchez, who is also the president of LCLAA, said he is aware that the White House has consulted and had conversations with some of the “highly qualified Latinos” who the NHLA recommended for cabinet positions.
“We had some positive conversations with the White House, and we are really hoping to see movement in the right direction soon,” he told VOXXI.
Obama is expected to announce more nominations in the coming weeks. Wilkes, executive director of LULAC, said that in the meantime, he and his group would continue to push for Latino representation in the cabinet.
This article was first published in Voxxi.
Griselda Nevárez is a reporter with Hispanic Link News Service in Washington D.C.