House Speaker John Boehner announced on Tuesday the hire of Rebecca Tallent, a top immigration policy aide who will advise the Speaker on the topic.
Tallent joins Boehner’s office from the Bipartisan Policy Center, where she was the director of immigration policy. Her hire — which was announced at the bottom of a press release along with other new staff additions — signals that there’s still life for an immigration reform bill to become law sometime over the next year.
And it came two weeks after Boehner declared in a press conference that despite press pronouncements, immigration reform was “absolutely not dead.”
Pro-immigration reform advocates that have been critical of Boehner hailed the move, while groups that have decried Senate-passed legislation as “amnesty” pushed back furiously.
“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,” Michael Steel, a Boehner spokesman, said in an email.
“Becky Tallent, a well-known expert in this field of public policy, is a great addition to our team and that effort.”
Prior to joining the BPC, Tallent was the point person on Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) staff, often leading his various pushes for immigration. From the 108th to 110th Congresses, Tallent helped draft four major immigration-related bills while working for both McCain and Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.). She was also a policy adviser on McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign.
Her move back to the Hill drew differing reactions from both sides of the immigration debate. Mark Krikorian, the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, said on Twitter that Boehner is “ready for amnesty.”
Boehner also got praise from unlikely sources — like Marshall Fitz, the director of immigration policy at the left-leaning Center for American Progress.
“Hiring Becky is an important signal that the Speaker is serious about achieving a legislative result,” Fitz told Business Insider in an email.
“He could have hired someone junior to simply manage the issue portfolio; that would have signaled that he was going in to a defensive crouch on the issue, just trying to run out the clock. But instead he hired someone senior with deep experience on the issue and a proven track record of effectively working across the aisle. In other words, he hired someone who knows how to get to yes.”
Boehner and other members of House GOP leadership have long signaled that they believe something needs to be done to reform the nation’s immigration system. But contra the comprehensive bipartisan Senate bill, they prefer to do so through a piecemeal method. Recently, President Barack Obama said he was open to that idea.
“If they want to chop that thing up into five pieces, as long as all five pieces get done, I don’t care what it looks like,” Obama said during an interview at The Wall Street Journal CEO Council.
Not everyone is convinced that Tallent’s hiring means that a solution on immigration reform is imminent, however.
A spokeswoman for the Fair Immigration Reform Movement, a group that supports the Senate-passed bill, told Business Insider that the group has brought more than 40 children to Washington this week to lobby for immigration reform.
“The Speaker can call a vote at any time and immigration reform would pass,” said Kica Matos, a spokeswoman for FAIR.
“The entire year has passed and he has completely failed all relevant tests of leadership on this issue. We want an end to family separations and the only move we want to see from the Speaker is a vote on a pathway to citizenship that would achieve an end to such suffering.”
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