The GOP debate in Ames, Iowa, made it clear that, if President Barack Obama is defeated in 2012, Republicans would continue their iron-fisted policy against the undocumented and would bury any chance of immigration reform in the United States, activists said Friday.

Republicans are working tirelessly to win a larger percentage of Hispanic voters but reject any plan that includes the legalization of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.

During Thursday night's debate, eight hopefuls for the GOP nomination repeated their rejection of comprehensive immigration reform.

Experts consulted Friday by Efe agreed that this is a risky position, considering that the Latino vote could be decisive in key states in the 2012 elections as it has been in years past.

"It's obvious that Republican candidates have come to the conclusion that the Latino vote is lost to them, and any attempt to appease Latinos would erode the support of their base, and they're not willing to sacrifice that," Muzaffar Chisti, an analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, said.

For her part, Lynn Tramonte, deputy director of the America's Voice group, said that none of the candidates offered ideas or solutions for the undocumented already living in this country.

"Everyone naturally favors legal immigration - no one wants people to keep crossing the border illegally and risking their lives. What I didn't hear during the debate was a solution to the problems that weigh on our immigration system," she said.

Eliseo Medina, international secretary and treasurer of the Service Employees International Union, said that the system needs an "urgent, realistic solution" instead of polarizing partisan rhetoric.

Latino voters want reform that "not only safeguards the security of our nation and our economy but also our values," he said.

A recent study by the Pew Hispanic Center showed that 72 percent of U.S. voters favor a process of legalizing the undocumented compared to 24 percent against.

Among moderate Republicans, 58 percent support legalization, while respondents identifying themselves as very conservative were evenly divided on the question.

The study also revealed that for 75 percent of voters, massive deportation is not viable.

Besides arguing in favor of doing more to guard the border, Republics reject an "amnesty" because legalized immigrants could well become new voters.

Electoral trends show that, in general, new Latino voters tend to support Democrats more than Republicans.

The current frontrunner for the GOP nomination, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, said Thursday night that he supports legal immigration, while adding that "we have to secure the border and we also have to crack down on employers who knowingly hire people who are here illegally."