Washington (CNN) – Democratic sources tell CNN that it's likely that Democrats on Capitol Hill –with the approval of the White House– will re-introduce some form of immigration reform, possibly as early as December. At this point, the details of any plan are unclear. But what is clear is that Democrats are interested in using their version of reform as a "contrast issue" to Republicans, who largely emphasize border security.
Sources say there are ongoing discussions among Democrats ranging from re-introducing comprehensive reform to bringing up the Dream Act again, which would allow the children of illegal immigrants who go to college or serve in the military to become citizens. The Dream Act was defeated last year.
Another possibility being considered is to combine a tough border security plan introduced by Arizona Republican Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl with a form of the Dream Act. "Nothing has been decided," says one Senate Democratic leadership aide. But, he adds, "there's a lot of interest."
While there is almost no expectation that a major immigration bill could pass Congress in an election year, it provides a way to distinguish Democrats from the GOP debate on immigration-and potentially keep Hispanic voters in the fold. Hispanic activists have been disappointed in Democrats' failure to pass major immigration legislation, but Democrats are betting the contrast with Republicans could bring Hispanics back to the party and out to vote.
So far, the Republican presidential primary contest has focused on strong border security questions. Herman Cain was forced to backtrack on his controversial statement on the need to electrify a border fence, calling it a "joke.' And Texas Governor Rick Perry came under fire from the other GOP candidates for his state's legislation allowing the children of illegal immigrants to pay in-state college tuition.
The division between the parties could not be more stark: Republican contenders believe you can't be too conservative when it comes to immigration. Democrats see the GOP positions as an opportunity to regain some lost ground.
With the Latino population growing, both parties are expected to make major plays for its vote next year with Democrats hoping to repeat the results from 2008. According to CNN's exit poll, President Barack Obama captured 67% of the Latino vote then while McCain got 31%. Hispanics make up parts of the electorate in key battleground states, such as Florida, Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado, and in order for President Obama to do well there again, he needs good turnout from that population.
- CNN Senior Producer Kevin Bohn contributed to this report.