Updated at the bottom with reaction from Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles. First posted at 7 a.m.

Herman Cain has been sitting on top of the world lately. The Republican presidential candidate last week found himself in the position of being the darling of many primary voters thanks to his no-nonsense talk, including a flat-rate tax plan dubbed 9-9-9. His candidacy has taken on that “lightening-in-a-bottle” burst of momentum.

But over the weekend he put his foot deep in his mouth in calling on the fence at the U.S. border to be “electrified.” As in kill and maim Mexicans trying to get across to wash your car and pick your lettuce.

That, of course, elicited a swift response from Latino leaders (but not, of course, here in L.A. — yawn):

U.S. Rep. Charles Gonzalez, said this yesterday:

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Words have consequences, both in shaping ideas and inspiring actions. Whether or not he made his comments in jest, Mr. Cain's words show a lack of understanding of the immigration issues our country is facing and a staggering lack of sensitivity. Surely, Mr. Cain understands the duty that candidates have to offer responsible policy proposals.

Of course, Cain on Sunday took back his words, saying he was joking, and adding that we all need to get a sense of humor. Because fried (refried?) Mexicans is funny!

We tried to get a reaction from MALDEF and the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA) late yesterday but were out of luck.

Still, it's an issue that surely strikes with maximum voltage here in the Latino capital of America.

Our two cents? What are the Republicans thinking? If this is the best the party has to offer than they can simply write off any hope of getting the Latino vote. Think we'll forget during the general election?

GOP candidates have been falling over each other to appear to be anti-illegal-immigrant at a time when illegal immigration is down — way down — and crime along the border is too.

Candidates, including Cain, talk of fortifying the border as if it hasn't been done — to the tune of complete militarization and the hiring of thousands of new agents in the last decade.

The Republican field has made a straw man of illegal immigration (instead of focusing on Wall Street, banks, subprime loans, war spending, and the like), and now it wants to fry illegals on a fence (jokingly, of course).

And now the party unleashed its online Latino outreach effort — which is in Spanish only! Do you know what language most Latino Republicans and potential party voters who happen to be Latino speak? English. If you can't figure that out, maybe you need to get out of politics.

Yeah, we can smell the burn already.

[Update]: Angelica Salas, executive director of CHIRLA, got back to us today, saying Cain's idea was “offensive and cruel:”

I think that you use electric fences for animals, and even then it's considered inhumane. There's a whole market for virtual-electric fences so cattle and other animals are not hurt. To think we'd have an electrified fence that would harm human beings is reflective of the lack of compassion and humanity that sometimes exists in the immigration debate.

She wondered aloud if the GOP is writing off the Latino vote in an attempt to appease the far-right and the Tea Party.

This party, I don't know where it's going to grow if it alienates the immigrant parents and their U.S. citizen children. There's a lack of vision for the future.

She paints the party's Spanish-only website as possibly a “covert outreach to the Latino community so that all the folks who are anti-Latino and anti-immigrant don't find out that

Republicans are trying to get a connection to one of the fastest growing demographics.”


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