Immigration activists are pinning their hopes for 2014 on a new hire in House Speaker John Boehner's office. Rebecca Tallent, charged with setting the stage for immigration reform next year, was chief of staff for Republican Senator John McCain when he was pushing reform in 2006-07. Most recently, she's served as director of immigration policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center.
Before Tallent even had the chance to hang a picture on the wall of her new office, Republican Congressman David Valadao of Hanford made it a point to arrange a meeting with her.
Valadao, a freshman, has become a leading voice among Republicans on immigration reform. He's one of the three Republican co-sponsors of HR-15, a comprehensive immigration bill modeled on the Senate version. He recently paid a visit to immigration activists fasting on the National Mall. Now, he's one of the first lawmakers to sit down with Tallent. Valadao says as soon as he found out about her joining the Speaker's office, he approached Boehner's team to arrange a meeting, which is scheduled for today. The congressman wants her to know that he "wants to be part of the conversation" on immigration.
But Valadao and Tallent have different opinions about how to pass legislation.
In an op/ed last month in the Christian Science Monitor, Tallent said for the House to pass immigration reform, "it needs an opportunity to work through its own process, moving smaller, piecemeal bills that members feel they have the opportunity to review and allow their constituents to vet."
Valadao supports a comprehensive reform package. He says while leadership prefers "small bites," he believes there's no way to separate the various pieces of the immigration reform puzzle, whether it's visas for agricultural workers or legal status for the estimated 11 million people already here in this country. "At the end of the day, they all affect each other," he says.