President Barack Obama asked Tuesday for support from unions and activists to pressure Congress into approving comprehensive immigration reform this year.

Obama's morning session with 16 labor and activist leaders was to be followed later Tuesday by talks on the same subject with the CEOs of a dozen top firms.

Participants at the first meeting thanked the president for his leadership on the issue, Janet Murguia, head of the National Council of La Raza, told reporters in front of the White House.

She praised the plan presented by Obama last week in Las Vegas, which, among other elements, includes a path to legalization for the undocumented, border security measures, and penalties for companies that hire workers "without papers."

The discussion made clear how urgent it is to launch a "common sense" reform that includes a "broad path" toward citizenship, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said.

Cristina Jimenez, managing director of the United We Dream Network, said the activists told Obama of their concern about the continual deportations and the need for a path to citizenship "that is not going to take 20 or 30 years."

Activists have called a national march in Washington on April 10 to keep up the pressure for reform, and in which, according to the organizers, some 200,000 people are expected to take part. EFE