As President Barack Obama promises a fight for comprehensive immigration reform early next year, California is sending to the U.S. Capitol fewer seasoned adversaries and more allies echoing his calls for swift action.
But the key demand of the emboldened immigrant rights movement -- citizenship for nearly all illegal immigrants -- remains an uphill battle as groups opposing a "blanket amnesty" promise to punish Republicans who stray too far from their cause.
Republicans still solidly control the House of Representatives, but the electoral shake-up in the California congressional delegation -- fueled by the growing clout of Latino and Asian-American voters -- signals a moderating tone on resolving the problem
"Both symbolically and substantively, having a very different California delegation is going to make a huge difference in the prospects for immigration reform," said Patty Kupfer of the liberal immigration lobby group America's Voice.
Symbolizing the changed landscape, Congress is losing seven of the 18 California Republicans who in 2010 opposed the Dream Act, a pathway to citizenship for young illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children.
Four are retiring, some after redistricting and the state's new top-two primaries hurt their re-election chances.
An additional three GOP stalwarts -- Sacramento County's Dan Lungren, San Diego County's Brian
And in the only district Republicans took from Democrats, San Joaquin Valley Assemblyman David Valadao won with a moderate immigration message.
Even the Democrats who replaced Democrats with like-minded views on immigration say they are making a humane overhaul a bigger priority.
"I do think it's clear from the results of the election that people in America are ready for immigration reform," said incoming U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, a prosecutor who unseated fellow Democrat Pete Stark.
"(Our) inexperience in Washington as a new delegation will actually benefit the immigration debate," Swalwell said. "We're not going to go to Washington and be used to gridlock. We are problem solvers."
In San Diego County, restrictionist groups are lamenting the defeat of incumbent U.S. Rep. Brian Bilbray, R-Carlsbad, a founder of the hard-line Immigration Reform Caucus whose hallmark cause was ramping up U.S.-Mexico border enforcement.
"It is a loss," said Roy Beck, director of Virginia-based NumbersUSA, a group smarting over losing nine strongly "anti-amnesty, tighter labor market" seats in the House of Representatives.
Also gone is the less flamboyant but more powerful U.S. Rep. Elton Gallegly, R-Simi Valley, the retiring chairman of the House Immigration Subcommittee. He led a decades-long fight to exclude illegal immigrants from benefits, including public education and birthright citizenship for their children, to keep them from staying.
His replacement couldn't be more different: Assemblywoman Julia Brownley sponsored California's Dream Act granting undocumented students access to financial aid. She will be the first Democrat to represent Ventura County since the 1940s.
In an interview, Gallegly rejected talk of a game-changing political landscape. He warned against interpreting the record Latino turnout aiding Obama's victory as a message to go softer on immigration.
"I think that's a huge myth," Gallegly said. "The Latinos that are legally in this country, which is a major part of the heritage of California, are more adversely affected by the impacts of illegal immigration than the Anglos are."
Beck acknowledged legislative relief for "the Dream kids" is growing more likely, but, he said, "I feel quite certain that the American people will keep a mass amnesty from happening."
Already marshaling against conciliatory Republicans is the same nationwide network "we mobilized in 2007 to defeat Bush's amnesty, and in 2010 to defeat the Dream amnesty," he said.
But Kupfer said immigrants and their advocates, after helping to secure Obama's re-election, are also digging in.
"We're looking much broader than the Dream Act right now," Kupfer said. "We don't want to stop anything short of citizenship for 11 million people."