House Speaker John Boehner hired a new policy adviser with immigration expertise last month, fueling hopes among immigration-reform supporters that the Ohio Republican might help guide legislation to passage in 2014.
There are reasons to be skeptical. Boehner says he won’t back a large-scale immigration overhaul along the lines of a bill that passed this June in the Senate. And the coming year — with midterm elections in the fall — isn’t the optimal environment for bipartisan cooperation.
Still, Boehner’s choice of Rebecca Tallent as an immigration adviser gives the impression that he’s committed to some action on immigration in the future.
Tallent, a former chief of staff to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), is a veteran of the immigration battles on Capitol Hill, advising McCain during the last serious push for an immigration overhaul in 2006 and 2007. Most recently, she was employed by the Bipartisan Policy Center, a group that promoted odd-couple messengers for immigration reform, like former Governors Haley Barbour (R-Miss.) and Ed Rendell (D-Pa.).
Since joining Boehner’s staff, she’s been quieter, as expected. The Speaker’s office did not respond to an interview request, but you can get an idea of where she stands reading through her tweets in recent months.
First of all, she thinks Boehner is the person who can make immigration reform happen.
When the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration bill in June, she questioned whether the House would accept it.
She had been saying that since May:
She thinks part of the reason immigration flopped in the House was because Republicans don’t trust President Obama to enforce immigration laws. Here’s what she said when two House Republicans dropped out of a bipartisan group working on reform this September.
Tallent expressed doubt that pro-immigration reform rallies in Republican districts would sway conservatives.
She’s also called out advocates who say that the future of the Republican Party depends on immigration reform.
Back in June, she heralded the bipartisan work on the Senate bill.
And when she heard that the House might pass immigration reform in pieces, and not as a single bill, she asked if the a path to citizenship for young undocumented immigrants would be included.
The takeaway: There’s a reason supporters of immigration reform were happy to see her join Boehner’s team in December. She’s taken a middle-of-the-road approach to immigration, giving Republicans cover but not abandoning the idea of an immigration bill that legalizes some undocumented immigrants.
Ted Hesson was formerly the immigration editor at Fusion, covering the issue from Washington, D.C. He also writes about drug laws and (occasionally) baseball. On the side: guitars, urban biking, and fiction.