"I think that we can craft a compromise," he said.

Torres rejected what he called "second-class citizenship" and said his side now holds the upper hand. He said CASA is planning to send tens of thousands of supporters to a rally outside the Capitol.

"We are not going to negotiate anything," Torres said. "We are in a different historical moment. We are going to keep pushing. ... We want legalization with a path to citizenship. Because it's time to accomplish that."

Brad Botwin, leader of Help Save Maryland, a group that opposes illegal immigration, urged caution.

"My feeling is, step back, take a breath, just chill," the Montgomery County man said. "You cannot make logical decisions in rushing. There's no rush; there's no election again for two years. This needs to be vetted with everybody."

To pass, any agreement would have to win the approval of both the Democratic-led Senate, which grew more liberal in the election, and the Republican-led House, which remains conservative. Neither body is expected to take up the matter until they have worked out a deal to cut budget deficits, a potentially divisive process that could disrupt any post-election spirit of bipartisanship.

As politicians in Washington weigh approaches to the immigration issue, Dominguez huddles with friends on the median strip of South Broadway.

A carpenter from Tabasco state in southern Mexico, he says he crossed the border into Arizona 13 years ago. He brought his wife and two sons; a daughter was born in North Carolina.

He says he makes $100 a day in construction; he aims to work four or five days a week. If he does not, he says, he has trouble covering his family's living expenses. His wife makes $8 an hour as a housekeeper. They live in Baltimore, he says; their children attend city schools.

"We come to work," he said. "We don't want to take away anyone else's jobs. We want everyone to work. We're here because the jobs are here."

Cardin believes there will be a "genuine desire" in Washington to get immigration legislation "done right."

"Elections bring opportunity," he said. But he added what he called a "realistic note."

"We're still in a very tough economic period," he said. "When you don't have enough jobs in America for people who are looking for work, it does cause resentment. And sometimes that resentment is not properly focused. So, I think it does add to the political difficulty."

Harris said Obama would have to "set the tone."

"If the president's tone is, 'We won,' well, actually, we won in the House," he said. "The American people pretty clearly gave Republicans majority control of the House back.

"If the president has that attitude, I'm afraid the negotiations are doomed to failure. If the president has the attitude that he won the executive branch, the Republicans won the House, therefore, there will have to be true compromise, then I'm much more hopeful."

matthew.brown@baltsun.com

twitter.com/matthewhaybrown

  • Text NEWS to 70701 to get Baltimore Sun local news text alerts