Herman Cain says he was just making a joke about deterring illegal immigrants from coming into America with electrocution at the border.

His so-called joke, told to two crowds in Tennessee where the GOP presidential candidate was campaigning last week, went like this: It's giong to be 20 feet high, Cain said, according to The New York Times. It's going to have barbed wire at the top. It's going to be electrified. And there's going to be a sign on the other side saying, 'It will kill you -- Warning.

Crowds apparently cheered when Cain delivered the punch. Note, they didn't laugh.

However Cain insisted on NBC's Meet the Press to host David Gregory Sunday that it was all said in jest. Cain said that's not his real plan for solving America's illegal immigration problem.

That's a joke, David, Cain said. That's not a serious plan.

Maybe not, but America's illegal immigration problem is no laughing matter. The truth, though, is that Cain told a joke that has rumbled in different manifestions for some time now in America's ultra conservative community. They don't say it from the podium typically, but they say it to one another amid winks and smiles rather frequently.

I've heard it. Maybe you have too.

The gist is this: Let's just shoot the immigrants at the border.

That will solve the problem.

Or, put up the electric fence with the sign saying it's electric on the other side. Yeah, that's a good one, they say. That will stop them.

And it would, if America wanted to stoop that low -- either in jest or reality.

Neither seems okay.

The truth is the illegal immigration problem is more serious than many Democrats seem willing to address. But the truth also is that many conservatives take a different angle they claim is a joke -- shoot 'em, fry 'em, whatever it takes.

Ha, ha.

Cain should know well those same types of jokes made the rounds among many in the white conservative community years ago during the Civil Rights Movement era.

Hang 'em, they said.

Ha, ha.

That's why it's odd that Cain, a black man, is willing to stoop to a joke about killing over what has increasingly become a racial issue -- illegal immigration.

They are taking our jobs.

They are crowding our schools.

They, of course, are Hispanics crossing the border illegally.

The real jokemay be that a conservative president -- George W. Bush -- is perhaps solely responsible for letting the illegal immigration issue get so out of hand years ago. He had a plan to slow illegal immigration. But oh by the way, America was involved in a housing bubble boom requiring lots of cheap labor from illegal immigrants.

Bush was lobbied to leave well enough alone, and let them in. Instead of electric fences, the borders were opened wide and immigrants rushed in, rather unmolested.

Now many schools are overcrowded. We don't have work for them. And many states simply can't handle the burden of supporting so many illegals who can't legally work or pay taxes but push the system to its limits.

Something needs to be done about the problem. But we need real solutions, not crude jokes. Killing them at the border is not a joke. It's offensive.