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At CPAC, Hard Lines On Race And Immigration Could Be Awkward

A note to the Republican presidential candidates heading to Washington for the Conservative Political Action Conference: Some of the events could make you uncomfortable if you're planning to tack to the center in your general election campaign.

Three of the GOP candidates — Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum — will address the largest annual gathering of conservatives on Friday. But Thursday brought a provocative panel discussion: "The Failure of Multiculturalism: How the Pursuit of Diversity Is Weakening the American Identity."

One of the panel's speakers was conservative author Peter Brimelow, whose book, Alien Nation, decried America's increasing racial diversity due to immigration (legal or illegal). The Southern Poverty Law Center has identified him as a "white nationalist" and monitors his website, VDARE.com, as a hate group. (Brimelow, an immigrant from England, named his website after Virginia Dare, the first English settler born in the New World, in 1587.)

Brimelow was joined on the panel by Robert Vandervoort, whose organization, ProEnglish, sponsored the discussion. ProEnglish advocates making English the official language of the government.

Vandervoot also is scheduled to speak on a Saturday panel, "High Fences, Wide Gates: States vs. the Feds, the Rule of Law & American Identity." As one would guess, this is about illegal immigration. The headliner on the dais will be Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the architect of the state laws cracking down on illegal immigration — legislation that has driven a wedge between Latinos and the Republican Party.

Kobach advises Romney on immigration policy, which helps explain Romney's pledge to, if elected, veto the DREAM Act, which would set a path to legal status for people under age 36 who arrived illegally in the U.S. as children.

Also on the panel are two Latino Republican congressmen, Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and David Rivera, who stand at the opposite end of the spectrum on immigration. Diaz-Balart and Rivera are Cuban-Americans from Florida and support the DREAM Act.

Diaz-Balart has taken criticism for overlooking Romney's immigration position to become one of his key supporters in the battleground state. Rivera supports Newt Gingrich, who has taken a more moderate stance on immigration.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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