Two women who could not be more different politically are reaching out to each other across the aisle to find the best solution for immigration regardless of political affiliations. Esther Olavarria, who has worked for Senator Edward M. Kennedy as his top immigration lawyer and Rebecca Tallent, Senator John McCain’s chief of staff, are using their expertise to unite Congress.
These two women have a reputation on Capitol Hill for being the most experienced on the immigration matters and having a great deal amount of respect for each other. “What they have is superior knowledge of the subject that exceeds any other staffers and any members,” said Mark Salter, a veteran of immigration battles who served as chief of staff to Mr. McCain. “That gives them an advantage.”
They have been meeting behind the scenes to try to bring legislators together on overhauls in regards to immigration reform. Both have a strong stance on immigration and have spent months trying to come together with a written list of principles for the upcoming immigration overhaul. Among the goals, which plan to be released next week, include heightened border security and enforcement, a fast-track legalization for agricultural laborers and more visas for high-tech workers.
The two began working together on immigration starting in 2003 and have come together as a sign of bipartisan support and eagerness to find a plan that works for both sides. The women are under intense pressure as Latinos are not letting up on protests and rallies aiming to motivate Congress to finally make a decision about legislation and a path to citizenship. Some critics are skeptical that two women would be able to transcend the extreme members of both parties, but they have made much progress and have a strong influence over the future immigration proposal that will be released for consideration.
The two have haggled for months over legislative details and grappled for support from constituents ranging from business to labor and immigrant leaders. Since their legislation died in 2005, they have made similar efforts to begin writing a new piece of legislation. They are both hoping this time it will pass and they will not be starting from scratch.
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