WASHINGTON, Feb. 16, 2017 – President Donald Trump will nominate Alexander Acosta as Secretary of Labor after yesterday’s news that Andy Puzder had withdrawn his nomination for the same position.
Acosta is the current dean of the law school at Florida International University, where he has been since July of 2009. If confirmed, he would be the first Hispanic in Trump’s slate of cabinet officials. A former U.S. Attorney in Florida, Acosta was in on the prosecution of several high-profile cases in Florida, including one that led to a forfeiture of $2.1 billion in a cocaine importation case.
The 48-year-old Miami native – the only son of Cuban immigrants – also served as the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Justice Department before his return to Florida.
In a White House press conference Thursday afternoon, Trump said he had spoken with Acosta earlier in the day. He complimented Acosta for a “tremendous career,” which also included a stint clerking for Justice Samuel Alito, then a circuit court judge, and his membership on the National Labor Relations Board.
“I think he’ll be a tremendous Secretary of Labor,” Trump said of the Harvard-educated Acosta.
Puzder withdrew his nomination after a flurry of allegations involving his personal employment of undocumented immigrants and a history of domestic violence.
Agriculture interests were interested to see Puzder’s nomination as secretary, primarily due to his previously stated support for comprehensive immigration reform. The Department of Labor has jurisdiction over many labor programs important to agriculture, including the H-2A visa program for agricultural workers.
Tom Nassif, president and CEO of Western Growers, said he’s looking forward to meeting Acosta.
“American farmers are looking to the Trump administration for leadership on many challenging issues,” he said, adding that “none ranks higher than the need for an immigration policy that protects American farmers from the loss of their valued employees and ensures access to labor in the future.
“Within American agriculture, fresh produce growers are especially impacted by our broken immigration system, and it is our hope that as a resident of Florida, one of the nation’s major fresh produce states, Mr. Acosta will bring a well-informed perspective to the Cabinet.”
Cicely Simpson, executive vice president of the National Restaurant Association, said it was "extremely unfortunate" that the confirmation process had resulted in a "qualified and dedicated man" withdrawing his nomination. Puzder, she said, "would have made a great Labor Secretary."
"We hope that President Trump's next Labor Secretary nominee, like Andy, has experience creating jobs and a deep understanding how to get business and government to work together to grow the economy."
In a statement, Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., who chairs the House Education and Workforce Committee, said Acosta “has the depth of knowledge and experience necessary to make a fine Secretary of Labor.”
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In addition to announcing Acosta’s nomination, Trump, during his press conference, touted the accomplishments of his young administration, fielded a number of national security questions, and offered some harsh criticism of the press.
He boasted about the withdrawal from the “job-killing disaster” that was the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement that many in agriculture favored, and re-upped his pledge for a change in trade policy.
Trump said he wanted bilateral trade deals that pushed “fair trade. Not free, fair. If a country is taking advantage of us, we’re not going to let that happen anymore,” he said, adding that almost “every country takes advantage of us."
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