House Speaker John Boehner is ready to embrace immigration reform in 2014 The New York Times reports, though exactly how far he intends to go is unclear.

The Times point out that in recent weeks Boehner has hired Senator John McCain’s staffer Rebecca Tallent who has extensive expertise on immigration reform.

There are an estimated 50,000 undocumented Irish in America who could be positively impacted by immigration reform. A comprehensive reform bill that passed the senate also has a provision for 10,000 Irish work visas a year.

Boehner’s move is seen as significant, In addition, before Christmas Boehner lashed out at Tea Party critics, signaling a move to the center

The Times quotes aides to Boehner who say he is committed to  “step by step” moves to change immigration laws.

Other House Republican members seem willing to” fast-track legalization for agricultural laborers, increase the number of visas for high-tech workers and provide an opportunity for young immigrants who came to the country illegally as children to become American citizens.”

Such a bill would then go to a senate/house conference where many of the comprehensive reform proposals could be included.

Observers say the only reason for hiring Tallent is Boehner’s desire to make a deal this year.

That alongside his claim that the Tea Party wing had  “lost all credibility “is a clear example of where his thinking is evolving.

“The American people are skeptical of big, comprehensive bills, and frankly, they should be,” Boehner told reporters recently. “The only way to make sure immigration reform works this time is to address these complicated issues one step at a time. I think doing so will give the American people confidence that we’re dealing with these issues in a thoughtful way and a deliberative way.”

Republicans won only 27 per cent of the Hispanic vote in the last election and the pressure is on from elders within the party to win some of that vote back which many see as a necessity in order to win future elections.

 Immigration advocates are staring to sound confident, “We’ve got to grab the brass ring while it’s there,” Kevin Appleby, the director of migration policy at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops,” told The Times.

 “I’ve been in this debate long enough to know you can’t rely on anything happening at a certain time or on assurances that we’re going to do something this year.”

Legislation could pass the House in May or June after primary challenges to sitting Republicans are over.

 “That’s our first window,”  Jim Wallis, the president of Sojourners, a Christian social justice organization in Washington that is working to change the immigration laws, told The Times.

 “We are organizing, mobilizing, getting ready here. I do really think that we have a real chance at this in the first half of the year.”

 “I would bet money that it will be done before the presidential election of 2016, but I think there’s a very good chance it will get done considerably sooner than that — in 2014,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York and one of the architects of the immigration legislation in the Senate, told The Times.

“I’m going to be pushing hard to try to get it done early next year,” said Representative Mario Diaz-Balart, a Florida Republican who is a proponent of an immigration overhaul. “The earlier the better, I think.”