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“This is an unfortunate and needlessly divisive nomination,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican and a member of the Judiciary Committee. “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 fundamentally political approach to the law.”

Mr. Sessions also argued that Mr. Perez’s views on illegal immigration are “far outside the mainstream,” citing his previous role as president of the board of Casa de Maryland. Mr. Sessions charged the group with instructing illegal immigrants on how to escape detection and promoting illegal labor sites and driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants.

Under Mr. Perez’s leadership, the civil rights division conducted 17 investigations of police and sheriff’s departments, an all-time record.

One particularly incendiary investigation that will undoubtedly come up during confirmation hearings, was the probe of the nation’s self-proclaimed toughest sheriff, Joe Arpaio of Arizona’s Maricopa County. The Justice Department sued him, as well as his office and the county last year for civil rights violations related to allegations that his department racially profiled Hispanics on immigration patrols.

His nomination had been expected for some time and has the strong backing of Hispanic advocacy groups, who vowed to push for his confirmation and demanded quick Senate action.

Mr. Perez embodies the wealth of talent and expertise that exists within the nation’s Latino community today,” the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials said Monday. “We look forward to working with the president to support Mr. Perez’s nomination and to identify other Latino voices for Cabinet positions that will build on the legacy of both Secretaries Salazar and Solis,” referring to Interior Secretary Kenneth L. Salazar.

Gov. Martin O’Malley, who picked Mr. Perez to lead Maryland’s labor department, praised his record as a member of his Cabinet.

“Under his leadership in Maryland, he worked diligently to find innovative ways to protect our state’s workforce in the toughest of times,” he said. “From foreclosure prevention to living wage implementation to workforce development and skills training, Tom established an aggressive portfolio that helped Marylanders weather a changing new economy.”