OBAMA:"Doing things on my own is very tempting!" Obama wants to go it alone on Immigration reform. Surprised?
- "The floor is empty," President Obama says of immigration reform
- The speech comes as Obama tries to drum up support from Latino voters
- "There's a real sense of disappointment," an immigration reform advocate says
- Columnist: In 2008, Obama made promises he couldn't keep
Washington (CNN) -- America's immigration system is broken, but pressure from a larger political movement is needed to fix it, President Barack Obama said Monday.
"The idea of doing things on my own is very tempting. I promise you, not just on immigration reform. But that's not how our system works. That's not how our democracy functions. That's not how our Constitution is written," Obama said at the National Council of La Raza's annual conference.
"Let's be honest, I need a dance partner here, and the floor is empty," he added, referring to the need for bipartisan congressional support to pass an immigration reform measure.
Members of the audience responded by chanting, "Yes you can, yes you can."
"I need you to keep building a movement for change outside of Washington, one they can't stop, one that's greater than this community," Obama told them.
The speech comes at a critical time for Obama, who is trying to drum up support among Latino voters in the run-up to the 2012 election.
"Feel free to keep the heat on me and the heat on Democrats. But here's the thing you should know, the Democrats and your president are with you, don't get confused about that," he said Monday.
As a candidate in 2008, Obama told the National Council of La Raza that comprehensive immigration reform would be a "top priority" during his first year in office.
But three years later -- with no concrete measure to change the nation's immigration system on the horizon -- some say Obama is losing his luster among Latino voters.
"He's still very popular in the Latino community, but there's a real sense of disappointment and, for some, anger, that he promised big, but hasn't delivered," said Frank Sharry, executive director of America's Voice, an organization that advocates immigration reform.
In 2008, Obama made promises he couldn't keep, according to syndicated columnist Miguel Perez.
"Unfortunately, people thought that he could, and so now he's boxed himself in, because Latinos do expect him to solve this problem," said Perez, who is also a journalism professor at Lehman College of the City University of New York.
La Raza is the largest national Latino civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States, and its meetings regularly draw top political leaders.
Its president Monday praised much of Obama's work in the White House.
"While we may not always agree, Hispanics do have a voice in the administration, and the Latino community does have the president's ear," said Janet Murguia, the organization's president.
But she went on to say that unfinished business remains.
"Virtually everyone in this room has been affected by our nation's broken immigration system and the record number of deportations," she said.
La Raza officials have criticized Obama's approach to immigration policies in the past, including his May speech on the issue in El Paso, Texas.
"We welcome the fact that he's finally using the bully pulpit, but follow-up is key," Clarissa Martinez, director of the organization's immigration campaign, told CNN after the May speech. "Congress has had an undeniable responsibility, but the president is not powerless, and today we did not hear specifics about how he intends to use the powers that he does already have."
Immigrant rights groups held a demonstration outside the White House the day after Obama took office, and have been pushing for the president to take a stand ever since.
Obama included among his 2008 campaign stances a goal to "bring people out of the shadows," supporting "a system that allows undocumented immigrants who are in good standing to pay a fine, learn English, and go to the back of the line for the opportunity to become citizens."
Exit polls found that 67% of Latino voters supported Obama in 2008.
Activists said his stance on immigration was one reason behind that support, and that a large turnout among Latino voters was a deciding factor in swing states like Colorado, Florida, New Mexico and Nevada.
See Votes by State
News & Politics