Yet with Election 2012 highlighting the electoral consequences of America's changing demographics, the next year appears to be ripe for compromise. How reforms might take shape could be a major point of contention between the parties, but lawmakers on both sides suddenly see an opportunity for what could be their most expansive achievement of 2013.
"It has to be in 2013," says Rep. Raúl Labrador (R) of Idaho, an immigration lawyer who thundered into Congress in the tea party wave of 2010. "If we wait until 2014, it's going to be election time. And you know how efficient we are here during election time."
Recent weeks have seen a flurry of activity on Capitol Hill. In the Senate, a "Gang of Eight" – led by longtime immigration reformers Sen. Chuck Schumer (D) of New York and Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina – has added freshman Sens. Michael Bennett (D) of Colorado and Mike Lee (R) of Utah, while potential 2016 presidential aspirant Sen. Marco Rubio (R) of Florida leads his own initiative.