From NBC's Mark Murray
In advance of President Obama's meeting tomorrow to discuss immigration reform with congressional Democrats and Republicans, immigration advocates held a conference call today with reporters, urging the Obama administration to make immigration a priority -- this year.
Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento said that tomorrow's meeting will tell them whether the White House is serious about enacting comprehensive immigration reform or whether it's timid. "Delaying immigration reform will be a mistake," he said, arguing that the country can no longer accept the status quo.
Tamar Jacoby, president and CEO of ImmigrationWorks USA, added that when the economy begins to recover, employers will need immigrant labor. "This is the time to do it. This is the time to start preparing for the economic recovery."
Frank Sharry, executive director of America's Voice, said it was smart policy and smart politics to take up immigration reform. He noted that Obama was elected in no small part because independent voters thought he and the Democrats were best able to find solutions to challenging problems like immigration. He also said Republicans "will have a huge price to pay" if they are seen as blocking immigration reform and scapegoating immigrants and Latinos.
Asked about Robert Gibbs' recent comment that the "math" might be against immigration reform this year, Sharry replied, "When it comes to counting votes in the U.S. Congress, we tend to look to Harry Reid before Robert Gibbs."
Senate Majority Leader Reid, per Sharry, has said that the votes are there.