Boehner Hires Immigration Adviser, Will Push Piecemeal Reform

Image: Boehner Hires Immigration Adviser, Will Push Piecemeal Reform

Tuesday, 03 Dec 2013 06:27 PM

By Cynthia Fagen

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House Speaker John Boehner has hired a seasoned veteran on immigration policy, a move seen as a renewed effort to tackle the front-burner issue in the coming year, The Hill reported Tuesday.

Immigration reform expert Rebecca Tallent, a former chief of staff to Sen. John McCain, comes on board Wednesday as an assistant to the speaker.

She was director of immigration policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center, a D.C.-based think tank.

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Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a Republican and co-chairman of the center's immigration task force, said Boehner's decision to hire Tallent was "affirmation of his strong desire to move legislation in 2014."

Boehner has been under fire from both sides of the immigration fence for not moving sooner on the issue.

Activists want to see the legalization of illegal immigrants, while House Republicans prefer to crack down on illegal immigrants.

"Tallent's hiring suggests he really does still want to push an amnesty through the House, which to me suggests that the immigration hawks still have their work cut out for them," said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates tighter security.

Bipartisan Policy Center President Jason Grumet said Tallent's experience will help her weed out what can work from what can't in order to pass legislation.

"The House is going to continue to chart its own course on immigration reform. Becky understands the issues — both those that should be on the table and those that have derailed past reform efforts," Grumet said.

The Ohio Republican House speaker has rejected Senate Democrats' broad, all-in–one legislation combining security, legalization, and a rewrite of the legal immigration system, which the Senate passed in June. Boehner has said he will do it piecemeal, issuing a number of bills.

"The speaker remains hopeful that we can enact step-by-step, common-sense immigration reforms — the kind of reforms the American people understand and support," said Boehner spokesman Michael Steel.

"Becky Tallent, a well known expert in this field of public policy, is a great addition to our team and that effort," Steel said.

Tallent was also a senior policy adviser on McCain's failed 2008 presidential bid and domestic policy adviser for vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin.

Advocates for an immigration bill say there is a narrow window in early 2014 before the midterm election campaigns heat up.

President Barack Obama is expected to press for immigration reform in his State of the Union Address in January.

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