Speaker Boehner’s new hire provides hope for immigration reform

Advocates of immigration reform in the United States were heartened recently when House Speaker John Boehner hired Rebecca Tallent to advise the Republican Party on immigration issues in 2014.

Tallent has a long history of work on immigration, having been on the staffs of two Republican congressmen – John McCain and Jim Kolbe – who have been particularly vocal about the need to reform the country’s immigration system.

Change in position coming?
Over her many years in Republican politics, Tallent has worked on legislation that would include things like a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. And now that Speaker Boehner has hired her as his special adviser on immigration issues there is hope that the party will move forward on reform with a more moderate approach.

One of the biggest obstacles to passing reform legislation has been the Republicans’ uncompromising views on issues like the DREAM Act and allowing undocumented workers the opportunity to earn U.S. citizenship. But those are both issues that Tallent has worked on in her time as an aide to McCain and Kolbe and in her previous position as the director of immigration policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C.

Republican backlash
Immigration reform advocates are hoping that Tallent’s track record means there will be a change in tactics among House Republicans, who have long derided citizenship for undocumented immigrants as “amnesty.” But many of the more conservative members of the House Republican caucus reacted with anger to Tallent’s hiring, describing it as a “slap in the face.”

That kind of backlash from members within Boehner’s own party likely signals that the movement toward reform will still face opposition. However, the simple fact that Tallent was brought on, and that her hiring was highly publicized, seems to indicate that there will be some heavy lifting done on the reform effort in the coming weeks and months.