Washington (CNN) – Some senior Democratic members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus used a private White House meeting Friday to urge President Obama not to unveil his own immigration legislation, for fear of blowing up delicate bipartisan talks, Democratic sources tell CNN.
This is significant for several reasons.
First, because the White House has been telling senators and advocates that they are writing their own immigration bill, in legislative language. It is incredibly rare for the White House to write its own bill.
Second – Democrats urging the president not to release a bill illustrates how polarizing the immigration issue remains – especially for Republicans who fear that signing onto any legislation that could be seen as authored by the president could invite primary challenges for Republicans.
"It's a tricky thing. We want him to lead, but Republicans are in a difficult position," said a Democratic source familiar with Friday's meeting.
Sources familiar with the bipartisan Senate framework announced Monday tell CNN one of the main reasons they chose to unveil their framework one day before the president's planned Tuesday speech on the subject, was to start the national dialogue on their bipartisan terrain. Politically, CNN is told the senators felt it was crucial for it to be known that there has been a real bipartisan process ongoing that is independent from the president.
In fact, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, did not call the president to inform him of Monday's announcement until Sunday.
In terms of substance, sources familiar with the both proposals, say the bipartisan Senate framework includes a border security trigger that the President's plan does not include; specifically, the path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants would not open up until a council of border officials verifies that the border is secure.
Advocates of a bipartisan approach – the only kind of immigration bill that could pass – tell CNN they are still concerned that the White House will unveil its bill.
"It would be a sabotage of the process," said one immigration reform advocate familiar with internal discussions but not able to speak freely on the record.
"Everybody is fine with him announcing principles, using bully pulpit, etc. But what nobody who actually wants to see this passed wants, is an 'Obama White House' branded bill getting introduced," said the source.
Immigration reform activists like Frank Sharry are thrilled the White House and the Senate are rushing to unveil their proposals.
"A Senate bipartisan process rushing to get out there early? The President flying to Las Vegas to make a speech in which he throws down on immigration reform? This makes Senate floor action this spring a certainty. Game on in terms of momentum," said Sharry, Executive Director of America's Voice, "
Democratic sources tell CNN at the very least, the president has his own bill as an insurance policy -and a signal to wary advocates of immigration reform that this term he will keep his promise to act on the issue.
Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum – a Coalition of immigration reform advocates – added that "if the Senate gets stuck, the White House has a bill in its back pocket they can put on the table as a trump card."