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GOP lawmaker says CPAC not conservative on immigration

Texas Republican Rep. Lamar Smith urged the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) to drop the word “conservative” from its name based on an immigration panel he considered biased.

“You have to wonder when a self-described conservative organization stacks an immigration panel with amnesty advocates,” Smith said in a statement. “For the second year in a row, CPAC has featured a panel where all but one speaker supports the agenda of liberal Democrats and the liberal national media.”

CPAC is a celebrated gathering of a wide range of conservatives and libertarians hosted each year by the American Conservative Union.  ACU’s president, Al Cardenas, is a vocal proponent of reform, having supported legalization for undocumented immigrants.

This year’s immigration panel is called “Can There Be Meaningful Immigration Without Citizenship?”

Mercy Viana Schlapp of Cove Strategies moderates, with panelists Helen Krieble of the Vernon K. Krieble Foundation, Rev. Luis Cortes Jr. of Esperanza, Alfonao Aguilar of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles and Derrick Morgan of the Heritage Foundation.

Morgan is the only panelist who opposes legalizing illegal immigrants before the border is secured, a view shared by Smith. The Texas congressman also called into question whether immigration reform is a top priority, as President Obama and some Republicans have claimed.

“CPAC should focus on issues that the American people, including Hispanics, care about,” said Smith, citing a recent Gallup poll that showed only 3 percent of independents, Democrats, and Republicans considered immigration reform an important issue.

Smith also noted a poll from Bloomberg which found that 85 percent of voters want Congress to improve border security and implement other supports before altering the immigration system.

Asked by The Daily Caller News Foundation whether Smith had been invited to speak about immigration at CPAC, a Smith aide said, “Congressman Smith declined to participate on such a biased panel since they already had three pro-legalization speakers.”

Despite the lack of anti-reform programming at CPAC, two prominent opponents of immigration reform will hold court at a separate event.

Eagle Forum president Phyllis Schlafly and columnist Ann Coulter will host a blogger briefing on Saturday near CPAC to address reports and polls that indicate immigration reform will doom the Republican Party. (RELATED: Phyllis Schlafly: Republicans are ‘fools’ to back ‘any kind of amnesty)

They are not the only disappointed conservatives. The pro-life group Students for Life of America voiced frustration that pro-life views were given short shrift at the conference.

“While CPAC certainly has pro-life politicians speaking, this year they have apparently chosen not to have a panel addressing abortion, the greatest human rights issue our nation faces,” said Kristan Hawkins, president of the group.

A request for comment from the American Conservative Union was not immediately returned.

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