Boehner gives strong signal he favors immigration reform, increase in hi-tech visas

Hiring top immigration advisor a positive signal.

By Deepak Chitnis

WASHINGTON, DC: While everyone was busy these past few days making resolutions for the New Year, it appears Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) has made a resolution as well: to allow changes to the long-gestating immigration reform bill that is currently gasping for life in the House of Representatives.

According to a report put out by The New York Times, it seems the impetus behind Boehner’s change of heart is Rebecca Tallent, a long-time immigration advisor to Senator and former GOP Presidential candidate John McCain (R-AZ) who was hired by the Speaker in the final weeks of 2013 to help guide him through the tricky waters of immigration policy reform.

The changes Boehner is apparently now open to making are incremental ones, not changes that would totally change the nature of the bill or give it immediate passage through the House. Although he has apparently declined to specify what changes he’s willing to make, the fact that he’s allowing some wiggle room on the controversial legislation is apparently evidence of a new resolve to get it passed.

On Boehner’s agenda are also immigration reforms to allow for more high-tech visas to be issued, which in turn, will be a catalyst for changes to the time frame for granting permanent residency.

While there is a new-found confidence in Washington, DC that immigration reform will see passage before the 2016 Presidential elections, many want to see it done far sooner than that. It’s been said before by several on Capitol Hill that 2014 is a do-or-die year for immigration reform. Specifically, if the bill does not see significant movement in the first few months of the New Year, it likely will not get passed at all during 2014, as Congressional focus will shift towards the midterm elections.

Hiring Tallent may also be part of an effort to soften the Republican Party’s historically staunch anti-immigration reform stance, which has cost it dearly in the past. Most recently, Mitt Romney is said to have lost the 2012 Presidential election largely because Hispanic voters refused to support him, as he strongly opposed reforming the current immigration policies that President Obama has been seeking to rectify.

Boehner, who is advocating a step-by-step approach to tacking the bill’s several contentious provisions, now has Tallent by his side to hopefully expedite the process and get the bill into voting procedures. But who is Rebecca Tallent?

Tallent was hired by Boehner on December 3, and began work the following day. Immediately preceding her job in Boehner’s office, she was the director of immigration policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center, a DC-based non-profit think tank founded by several high-level political figures in 2007 to “drive principled solutions through rigorous analysis, reasoned negotiation and respectful dialogue.”

More importantly, Tallent has worked as a policy aide on immigration and energy-related issues under Sen. McCain and Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-AZ). She was also McCain’s office’s chief of staff during his 2008 bid for the White House, as well as his senior policy advisor.

She was also involved, in some capacity, in the previous two efforts to pass large-scale immigration reform through Congress, in 2003 and 2007 – both efforts were unsuccessful.

Should immigration reform start gaining traction in the coming weeks – and even get passed by the end of the year – it would be a huge turnaround for Obama, who is coming off arguably the worst year of his two-term presidency and has stated that immigration reform is one of the key items on his second term’s agenda.

Coming together to solve a large issue like immigration would make both the Democrats and Republicans look good in the minds of voters, especially after last year’s government shutdown. The upcoming midterm elections will prove which side benefits the most from its passage, but regardless, the fact remains that the clock is ticking louder and faster than ever on immigration reform.

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