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This year, Mr. Obama is in a different position, Ms. Kelly said.

“On this, the timing is soon, the tone is urgent and the tactic is legislation,” she said. “The issue is more mature than it’s ever been.”

Immigrant rights advocates said the real news Tuesday might be made by Sen. Marco Rubio, the Florida Republican who is delivering the GOP’s official response — in English and Spanish — and who has joined a bipartisan group of senators working on writing a bill to legalize illegal immigrants.

They have proposed granting immediate legal status to illegal immigrants, with green cards to follow once the borders are deemed secure — likely 10 years or so later.

With pressure increasing on Capitol Hill, activists are looking past Tuesday’s speech to a hearing scheduled for Wednesday in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will kick off the Senate’s push for action and feature testimony from an illegal immigrant.

“Sure, President Obama and Sen. Rubio both speaking up for immigration reform on Tuesday night is a big deal and adds to the momentum that has accelerated dramatically over the past two weeks. But the most important immigration event of this week is Wednesday’s hearing,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice Education Fund.

Mr. Dane, though, said lawmakers shouldn’t get too far ahead of voters.

“The American public hasn’t weighed in on this yet. This is still inside-the-Beltway planning. I think the president is in for a rude awakening when the public realizes there’s absolutely nothing in the amnesty plan for them,” he said.