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“It’s almost like when you leave your kids at home, you need to be sure they’re doing what they’re told to when you’re not around,” Ms. Salas said.

The groups learned the importance of mass action from their defeat in 2007. During that year’s immigration fight, they were outflanked by organizations such as NumbersUSA, which lobbies for stricter immigration limits and which prodded its massive e-mail list to flood the Capitol with phone calls and faxes demanding that the bill be defeated.

By 2008, Hispanic rights organizations, such as the National Council of La Raza, ratcheted up their own campaign to try to define NumbersUSA and its allies as part of a campaign of hate. The efforts are thought to have helped chase CNN host Lou Dobbs from his television show.

But the rhetoric may have unleashed something even the leaders of the groups can’t contain, as Hispanics throughout the country have come to see immigration as the political litmus test for politicians seeking their vote.

“This is now out of the hands of political operatives, lobbyists and even activists,” Mr. Andrade said, pointing to last month’s rally on the Mall for evidence.

“What happened that day was people were emptying out their apartments, they were going around and knocking on neighbors’ doors, they were talking to their co-workers. Those numbers - they’re going to be increasing,” he said.

As for Mr. Obama, he is now in the same position as President George W. Bush, who also campaigned in 2000 and 2004 on a promise to pass a legalization bill. Mr. Bush encouraged bipartisan negotiations in the Senate in 2006 and 2007, but neither effort led to Congress approving a bill.

Marc R. Rosenblum, a senior policy analyst for the Migration Policy Institute, who was on Mr. Obama’s immigration policy team during the presidential transition, said the president is working with all sides, but, like Mr. Bush, Mr. Obama has not found a winning coalition of 60 senators needed to overcome a certain filibuster.

The White House declined to make anyone available for an interview but said the president has stepped up his efforts, including calling five Republican senators last week to ask them to join an effort to pass a bill.

Mr. Obama addressed the issue Friday at a naturalization ceremony for 24 U.S. troops, blasting Arizona’s new law making it a state offense to be in the country illegally and saying that’s more reason to act at the national level.

The president also called out the 11 Republicans still in the Senate who he said voted for an immigration bill in 2006.

“I’m hopeful that they will join with Democrats in doing so again so we can make the progress the American people deserve,” the president said.

Behind the scenes, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano also has made overtures. She had held at least 35 meetings with members of Congress since she took office to press for immigration reform.

But just three of those meetings have been this year, and only one — with Mr. Schumer — has happened in the last two months.

Mr. Rosenblum said the activists’ pressure goes beyond the White House.

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