Boehner's New Immigration Policy Director Has Deep Experience on Overhaul Efforts

Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, is taking on a new and formidable immigration policy director, a sign that he could be more serious about passing immigration legislation than his critics suggest.

Rebecca Tallent, who currently serves as director of immigration policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center, will join Boehner's staff on Wednesday. Before joining the BPC, Tallent held several senior staff positions with Sen. John McCain, including chief of staff.

During her time with McCain, she helped the Arizona Republican draft a handful of immigration overhaul measures, including the last big push McCain made with the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., in 2007. In 2008, she was a policy adviser on McCain's presidential campaign. Before working for McCain, she worked for former Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz., a longtime advocate of overhauling the immigration system who was involved in immigration efforts before he retired in 2006.

The BPC, the nonpartisan think tank established by four former Senate majority leaders — Howard Baker, R-Tenn., Tom Daschle, D-S.D., Bob Dole, R -Kan. and George Mitchell, D-Maine — announced her departure on Tuesday afternoon, beating Boehner's office to the punch by several minutes.

The BPC release heralded Talent's new job as one that "signals new momentum for immigration reform."

"Speaker Boehner could not have chosen a better person to help House leadership develop effective immigration reform legislation," Haley Barbour, the former Republican governor of Mississippi who is co-chairman of BPC's immigration task-force, said in a statement.

"She will be a crucial resource in crafting legislation that can pass the House and be signed by the president," added BPC President Jason Grumet.

Boehner did not announce Tallent's arrival with similar pomp and circumstance, instead including her name at the end of a long list of staff changes in the speaker's office.

But Boehner spokesman Michael Steel did not seek to underplay the significance.

"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," Steel said in a statement to CQ Roll Call. "Becky Tallent, a well-known expert in this field of public policy, is a great addition to our team and that effort."