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, was defeated in a 2010 Democratic primary election 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 John McCain, the Arizona Republican who ran for president in 2008, will help lead the fight or sit on the sidelines.
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 large Hispanic populations.
In his first term, Obama disappointed many Hispanics and Democrats with his aggressive deportation policy and failure to seek broad immigration reforms, opting for a policy decision that defers deportation for some younger illegal immigrants who are enrolled in school.
A House Democratic aide, who asked not to be identified, complained that Obama, when it came to immigration reform, "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" this time around.
Meanwhile, Hispanics are hoping that the 2012 election has finally opened the door to change.
"We have a check to cash, and 2013 is going to be a new year," said Daniel Rodriguez, an Arizona activist with United We Dream, a network of youth-led immigration groups.