Republicans’ election losses prompted US House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner to say immigration reform was needed.
However, one senior House Republican aide, who did not want to be named, said House Republicans are “still pretty conservative.”
In addition, the next chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, the panel that would craft that chamber’s immigration bill, could be Representative Bob Goodlatte, a conservative who opposes amnesty for illegals.
Goodlatte has praised the controversial Arizona law cracking down on illegal immigrants that has been partially struck down by the US Supreme Court.
Representative Steve King, also a conservative Republican, said during a post-election press conference that Obama could not be trusted to enforce any immigration reform law that Congress might produce.
He downplayed any notion that an alienated Hispanic community contributed to Republican losses.
However, Representative Raul Labrador, a fellow conservative and Puerto Rico native, rebutted King, saying that Hispanic votes are essential to a healthy Republican Party.
“One of the biggest things conservatives talk about often is that we want to fix a broken government. Well, if you know anything about immigration law, the immigration system is absolutely broken in the US,” Labrador said.
In the Senate, the work will start without some of the titans of earlier immigration battles. Edward Kennedy, a Democrat, died in 2009. Arlen Specter, a moderate Republican-turned-Democrat, lost a 2010 Democratic primary and left the Senate before his death last month.
Senator Richard Lugar, a moderate Republican, will leave at year’s end along with Joseph Lieberman, an independent. It is unclear whether Senator John McCain will help lead the fight or be neutral.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Durbin, joined by fellow Democrats Robert Menendez and Charles Schumer, will watch closely to see whether some fresh Republican faces become serious players.
Among those Republicans are first-term Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and incoming senators Jeff Flake of Arizona and Ted Cruz of Texas — all conservatives from states with big Latin populations.
In his first term, Obama disappointed many Hispanics and Democrats with his aggressive deportation policy and failure to seek broad immigration reforms.
A House Democratic aide, who asked not to be identified, said that when it came to immigration reform, Obama “for the most part sat back and told Congress to work it out and ‘I’ll give a speech.’ He’s going to have to be more hands-on.”
Meanwhile, Hispanics are hoping that change is finally close.
“We have a check to cash, and 2013 is going to be a new year,” said Daniel Rodriguez of United We Dream, a network of youth-led immigration groups.