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SALLY SARA: US president, Barack Obama, says fixing the country's broken immigration system will be a top priority in his second term.
America is home to an estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants - a vexing situation for a nation that has a complicated relationship with its southern neighbours.
But with debt crises and gun control also on the agenda, the president's backers say there's only a small window for him to take action before immigration becomes too politically fraught once again.
From Washington Lisa Millar reports.
(Sound of Epiphany celebration)
LISA MILLAR: Twelve days since Christmas and Washington's Hispanic community celebrates the Epiphany, complete with three wise men and a llama.
RAMONA JOHNSON: That's the day that in Mexico you leave shoes in the window so that the three kings can celebrate the birth Christ, so it's very important for us.
LISA MILLAR: Ramona Johnson's mother is Mexican, her father is African American and her desire to have her own son appreciate that heritage is part of the reason she's so passionate about immigration reform.
RAMONA JOHNSON: There has to be some changes with regards to people that have done the right thing. People that have lived their lives, they came here to try to get a better life and they really are doing the right thing. They're doing right by their community, they're doing right by their families, they're doing right be themselves, but come to the country with a heart of wanting to be one of us.
LISA MILLAR: Wendy Ramirez was born in America but spent some of her childhood with family in El Salvador, many of whom are here in the US, hoping that Barack Obama will finally deliver on his promises of change.
WENDY RAMIREZ: I mean I think that's the expectation. It needs to happen and so yeah I think we all have hopes.
LISA MILLAR: What do you want to see happen?
WENDY RAMIREZ: A bill passed. There has to be compromise of course, like it's understandable. But something that I think addresses the main issue, in particular the over 12 million in the US that are undocumented.
LISA MILLAR: The broad aim has been defined their fairest way to offer illegal immigrants a path to legal residency, while beefing up border security and penalising companies that deliberately employ illegal immigrants.
Last week the president ticked on easing visa requirements for hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants, allowing them to stay in the country while they try to legalise their status, putting an end to long family separations.
Reverend Samuel Rodriguez is the president of the National Hispanic Leadership Conference, the largest organisation of Hispanic evangelicals in the US.
SAMUEL RODRIGUEZ: The language has shifted. The language has changed, there's a new lexicon surrounding immigration reform. Before the conversation in 2006 surrounded around the issue of deportation; that conversation evolved to self-deportation. Today that's no longer part of the vocabulary. Now the question is legalisation.
So for the first time in a decade, deportation and self-deportation are no longer the viable the options. They're not even discussed in any sustainable manner. Now it's about legalisation. The question in 2013 is what does legalisation look like? Does it include a pathway to citizenship or does it not? And 2013 is the critical legislative year that I believe we will pass immigration reform, for a number of reasons.
Republicans and conservatives had a road-to-Damascus moment, a come-to-Jesus moment, an epiphany mind you, where they came to the realisation that without the Hispanic electorate it is impossible to occupy the White House.
Accordingly, even if they are driven by politics, Republicans and conservatives are going to have to compromise on immigration reform in 2013.
(Sound of Epiphany celebration)
LISA MILLAR: And that's where someone like Wendy Ramirez begins to lose faith.
WENDY RAMIREZ: It just makes sense for the country as a whole to actually do this, and do it right. But politics always gets in the way.
LISA MILLAR: This is Lisa Millar in Washington for PM.
READ MORE: http://www.abc.net.au/pm/content/2012/s3665450.htm