New Boehner Hire Supports Path to Citizenship

Rebecca Tallent is a veteran of immigration fights and a big believer in reform.

Immigration woman: Becky Tallent (Richard A. Bloom) 
National Journal
Elahe Izad and Fawn Johnson
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Elahe Izad Fawn Johnson
Dec. 3, 2013, 11:25 a.m.

House Speak­er John Boehner’s new staffer in charge of im­mig­ra­tion policy has sig­ni­fic­ant ex­per­i­ence in draft­ing im­mig­ra­tion le­gis­la­tion and push­ing for re­form. She wouldn’t be com­ing to Boehner’s of­fice if House Re­pub­lic­ans wer­en’t ser­i­ous about do­ing something on the is­sue. What that is re­mains to be seen.

Re­becca Tal­lent, former chief of staff to Sen. John Mc­Cain, R-Ar­iz., will be com­ing to the speak­er’s of­fice from the Bi­par­tis­an Policy Cen­ter, where she has served as dir­ect­or of im­mig­ra­tion policy. Her move “is af­firm­a­tion of [Boehner’s] strong de­sire to move le­gis­la­tion in 2014,” BPC’s im­mig­ra­tion task force co­chair­man, former Mis­sis­sippi Gov. Haley Bar­bour, said in a state­ment.

Tal­lent is a vet­er­an of im­mig­ra­tion fights and a big be­liev­er in re­form, in­clud­ing a path to cit­izen­ship for un­doc­u­mented im­mig­rants. One of her early en­deavors in ne­go­ti­at­ing le­gis­la­tion was 10 years ago, when she worked as a staffer for former Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Ar­iz. Tal­lent helped draft a ma­jor im­mig­ra­tion bill sponsored by Kolbe, Mc­Cain, and former Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ar­iz., now a sen­at­or and mem­ber of the “Gang of Eight” who cre­ated the com­pre­hens­ive im­mig­ra­tion bill that passed the Sen­ate in June.

“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,” Boehner spokes­man Mi­chael Steel said. “Becky Tal­lent, a well-known ex­pert in this field of pub­lic policy, is a great ad­di­tion to our team and that ef­fort.”

Boehner has re­jec­ted the Gang of Eight’s bill, say­ing the House will chart its own path to­ward re­form. But Tal­lent is no stranger to re­jec­tion either. Flake and Kolbe were un­able to get a Demo­crat­ic co­spon­sor for their 2003 meas­ure, des­pite months of court­ing then-Rep. Sil­vestre Reyes, D-Texas.

After Kolbe re­tired, Tal­lent moved to the Sen­ate with Mc­Cain and held the Re­pub­lic­an line in ne­go­ti­ations on an­oth­er com­pre­hens­ive im­mig­ra­tion bill that passed the Sen­ate in 2006. Her role primar­ily con­sisted of keep­ing uni­ons at bay who balked on in­creas­ing guest­work­er visas and on pay scales for those work­ers. “I know more than I ever wanted to know about pre­vail­ing wage,” she said in 2003.

The pre­vi­ous staffer in charge of im­mig­ra­tion policy left Boehner’s of­fice a few weeks ago for an­oth­er job.

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