Jan. 02, 2013— -- From conservative immigration reform advocate Marco Rubio to DREAMers, Latinos played a key role in 2012 Politics. With a new batch of Hispanic lawmakers set to take office in 2013, here are the five to watch.
1. Representative Luis Gutierrez (D-Illinois)
The Democratic Illinois congressman has been a vocal advocate of immigration reform, and with the topic set to take center stage in the next Congress, Gutierrez is likely to play a key role in the debate. He has already been quite vocal about creating a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. The first Latino to be elected to Congress from the Midwest sponsored a version of the DREAM Act in 2001. While the DREAM Act has not passed, Gutierrez has touted the record Latino voter turnout in 2012 as an indicator that the nation is ready for immigration reform. This Puerto Rico-rights advocate is also a key member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, a group of lawmakers who have developed and released what they say should be guiding principles to immigration reform, which includes a path to citizenship.
2. Senator Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey)
The Democratic senator from New Jersey has outlined specifically what he would like to see included in immigration reform. And now that John Kerry is set to head the State Department, Menendez is likely to head the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee. As head of the committee, he would have a key role in approving nominees for diplomatic positions and a platform to comment on the country's foreign policy decisions. Menendez has been particularly critical of Fidel Castro's regime in the past, and he's sure to be a key player in any Cuba-relations debate. Like Gutierrez, Menendez is a key member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
3. Governor Susana Martinez (R-New Mexico)
The Republican New Mexico governor has proven to be a moderate voice within the party, particularly when it comes to immigration. Martinez has said Arizona's immigration law would not be a good fit for her state, and she was critical of Mitt Romney's "self-deportation" comment. She gave a well-received speech at the Republican National Convention and was considered by some to be a potential vice presidential nominee before Mitt Romney selected Paul Ryan to fill that slot. Although she's relatively unknown on the national stage right now, if her convention speech and independent-minded statements are any indication, that's going to change in the near future.
4. Representative Joaquín Castro (D-Texas)
Although the newly elected congressman often receives less national attention than his dynamic twin brother, San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro, Joaquín is already making a name for himself on the Hill. He's touted as a powerful newcomer to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and he's been vocal in calling for immigration reform and stricter gun control, two issues the president has named as priorities for the coming year.
5. Representative Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho)
The Puerto-Rican born lawmaker is one of the most conservative Latinos in Congress. With the Republican Party struggling to attract the support of Latino voters, Labrador could be a driving force in mobilizing fellow conservative Hispanics. He's also familiar with the immigration debate from both policy and legal standpoints. Labrador does not favor a path to citizenship, but lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say they think the Mormon lawyer is committed to immigration reform.