CAMBRIDGE, Md. -- A few House Republicans on Thursday passionately encouraged their colleagues to embrace comprehensive immigration reform, even as many of their colleagues remained skeptical of taking action in an election year.

According to sources present for private discussions held during the House Republicans' annual policy and political retreat, Reps. Jeff Denham of California and Mike Coffman of Colorado argued to their colleagues that immigration reform is a family values issue.

Denham, who represents a region with a significant Hispanic population, said it is important for Republicans to prevent families from being split apart, referring to the issue of illegal immigrants whose children are U.S. citizens. Coffman said it was important to act this year.

Among the skeptics, Rep. Marlin Stutzman of Indiana said Republicans should wait until after the November elections to tackle immigration reform, sources said. House GOP leaders favor acting this year, if they can forge consensus on legislative principles, but as many as two-thirds of rank-and-file members remain wary.

While there was broad support for delaying action on an immigration overhaul, at least at the outset of the House Republicans' retreat, GOP members were eager to pursue a proactive legislative agenda on other matters. They hope to present a positive agenda to voters and put pressure on the Democratic Senate.

“There was a lot of worry about the ‘do nothing’ label, how we need to push items forward,” one source said.

House Republicans kicked off their annual two-day policy and political retreat on Thursday. They gathered at a Hyatt resort on the banks of the Chesapeake Bay about 90 miles east of the Capitol.

They were scheduled to continue their discussions Thursday afternoon as they seek to develop a unified policy and political agenda for the year. Single-issue meetings on immigration, the debt ceiling, health care and other matters were on the docket.