In a move that may be a positive sign for comprehensive immigration reform, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has hired well-known immigration advisor Rebecca Tallent to his staff.
Tallent, a longtime advocate for immigration reform, once advised Republican senator John McCain (AZ) on immigration reform and is said to be responsible for his push to pass reform under former president George W. Bush. As McCain’s chief of staff, Tallent — who recently became the director of immigration policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center — was at the forefront of the effort to pass comprehensive immigration reform in 2007 and 2008. McCain continues to support and rally behind the cause today.
Boehner may hope that Tallent — who drafted several immigration-related bills while working for McCain and former House Representative Jim Kolbe (R-AZ) — will help design the “piecemeal” bills that he plans to move through the House.
According to MSNBC, Boehner’s spokesman says that the “Speaker remains hopeful that we can enact step-by-step, common-sense immigration reform,” adding that Tallent is a “great addition . . . to that effort.”
Proponents of immigration reform from both sides are hailing Boehner’s decision to add Tallent to his staff.
“I think it’s a clear signal that the Speaker is serious about getting this done,” Marshall Fitz, director of immigration policy at The Center for American Progress, told MSNBC. Some on the right, like GOP consultant and former McCain aide Ana Navarro, are also voicing their support.
The Speaker, however, will probably find less enthusiasm from his own colleagues on Capitol Hill – many of whom do not support the immigration legislation that passed the Senate but is currently stalled in the House. Just last month, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) announced the House would not vote on the reform passed by the Democratic-controlled Senate this year, even though they have had six months to do so. In recent weeks, however, President Barack Obama – who hopes to make immigration reform a core part of his legacy – said that he would accept a piecemeal approach to immigration reform in a move meant to appease reluctant Republicans.
Senate Democrats remain hopeful, because, as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid points out, “If the Republicans ever want to elect a Republican president again, they’re going to have to get right with the Hispanic and Asian community who by more than 70 percent voted for [President Barack] Obama last time.”
Reid says he’s confident that an immigration bill will be passed in 2014, explaining, “I think there’s going to be so much pressure on the House that they’ll have to pass it.”
According to Reid, “Boehner is “going to cave in,” and with Tallent on the Speaker’s side, Reid is probably right.
Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr