In a way, it's not surprising that anti-immigration rhetoric has gained such prominence in a post September 11th world. While people opposed to illegal immigration unfortunately come in all shapes and sizes, the impression that I get is that the core group that believes in this stuff is composed of the whitest of the white people, the anglo-saxon, possibly Irish or Germans, Americans who somehow believe that they have a 'right' to this country.
The flag waving and patriotic rhetoric post 9/11 seem to have resonated most strongly with them, also.
After all, practically everyone else in America has to some extent or another been a victim of the America. Blacks in the South. Asians in the West. Native Americans all over the place. Also the descendents of people who, either because they were Jewish or because they were Southern or Eastern European, were imported over here for sweatshop labor at the turn of the 20th century. Add to that miscellaneous later comers who have experienced discrimination of one kind or another and you find that there are many more people who the American dream has ate up and spit out than have straightforwardly benefitted from it, without oppression of some kind.
Even though flag wavers come in all flavors as well, my guess is that the people who wave the flag and salute with "Proud to be American" stickers are more heavily made up of anglo-americans who's ancestors came here as farmers rather than industrial workers, than it is made up of people who, although they might currently be doing well, have these skeletons of hardship and discrimination in their past. Or, of course, not even in their past.
The nativist sentiment, ironically championed by people with names like "Tancredo", is connected in my mind to the sort of primal white supremacist narrative about the origin, purpose, and destiny of the United States, something which has little to do with reality and which instead legitimates already existing unequal power differentials.
Lou Dobbs, the conservative, repressed, northeastern WASP stock broker turned illegal immigrant hater, represents this white supremacist strain in it's purest form. Who better to complain about Mexicans than someone who looks and acts like he's been to Andover and who works Wall Street?
The illegal immigration debate is, at its core, a debate between the reality of the United States and the image of it in the minds of some of it's more privileged citizens, and the sooner we can move the popular image of the United States closer in line with the reality of life here the sooner we can start effective work to make this a more equal society.
As long as the white supremacist narrative upheld by Minutemen, anti-immigrant haters, their allies, rural whites, Western whites, elite stockbrokers, President Bush, and their like, continues, this is unlikely to happen.