WASHINGTON - President Obama gave his strongest signal to date that that he is prepared to let another deadline slip for passing an immigration overhaul, telling an audience Wednesday night that he merely wants to start working on the issue before the year is out. "I want to begin work this year, and I want Democrats and Republicans to work with me - because we've got to stay true to who we are, a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants," Obama said at the event Wednesday. As a candidate for office in 2008, Obama said that immigration would be a "top priority in my first year as president." But at this point, he lacks the necessary votes. Thus far, no Republican has agreed to co-sponsor a bill that would both strengthen the border and provide a path to legal status for the 11 million immigrants living in the U.S. illegally. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who sponsored an immigration bill in former President George W. Bush's second term, said: "We have to secure the border first. We have not done that. We cannot enact legislation with a promise that has not been kept since Ronald Reagan gave amnesty to a couple of million illegal immigrants and promised to secure the border." Obama's stance left immigration advocates disappointed. Joshua Hoyt, executive director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, said: "Sounds like more of the slow-walking, happy-talking president we've seen for the last year." Deepak Bhargava, executive director of the Center for Community Change, was part of a group of advocates who met with Obama at the White House two months ago to talk about immigration. Bhargava said Wednesday: "The president needs to be clear and unequivocal that he is determined to get immigration reform done in 2010. He needs to call Republicans and Democrats to the White House and exercise leadership and put the full weight of his office behind a serious effort. We need him to be clear that it's possible and imperative to get legislation done this year." Immigration bill needs work in '10, Obama says The majority of americans will scream loud and long if legislation is done without securing the border!