House Speaker John A. Boehner announced Tuesday that he has hired a longtime advocate of legalizing illegal immigrants to be an adviser, signaling that the Republican is still intent on trying to pass an immigration bill during this congressional session.
Immigrant rights advocates cheered the move as a sign of Mr. Boehner’s dedication to action. Those who want a crackdown on illegal immigration said the top Republican in the House has moved closer to embracing amnesty by hiring Rebecca Tallent, a former staffer for Sen. John McCain and fellow Arizona Republican Jim Kolbe.
“Tallent’s hiring suggests he really does still want to push an amnesty through the House, which to me suggests that the immigration hawks still have their work cut out for them,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies. “She is a professional amnesty advocate.”
Ms. Tallent is leaving a job as immigration policy director for the Bipartisan Policy Center and will join Mr. Boehner’s staff Wednesday, putting her in the center of one of the thorniest issues in Congress.
The Ohio Republican has said he is committed to acting on the issue but has rejected Senate Democrats’ approach of a broad bill combining security, legalization and a rewrite of the immigration system.
“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,” 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.”
She has been involved in writing a number of broad legalization bills, including one for Mr. Kolbe and two for Mr. McCain in the past decade. She was also a senior policy adviser during Mr. McCain’s failed 2008 presidential campaign, which included traveling as a domestic policy adviser for vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin.
Mr. Boehner appeared to have nailed the door shut on immigration last month when he said he wouldn’t enter into negotiations on the Senate bill.
Mr. Krikorian said he still thinks the chances of a final bill reaching Mr. Obama’s desk next year are slim but that Mr. Boehner’s hiring decision is worrisome.
“Basically what that means is that the person who ran John McCain’s amnesty push last time is now running amnesty for Speaker Boehner,” he said.