There are about 11 million illegal immigrants in the US today, a figure that grows by some 500,000 a year, according to the Center for Immigration Studies. In a recent paper, the center's research director, Steven Camarota, reports that there now are more than 35 million immigrants (legal and illegal) living in the US. That amounts to more than 12 percent of the total population, the highest percentage in eight decades.
Organizations patterned after the controversial "Minuteman Project" along the US-Mexico border have sprung up in New England, the Midwest, the South, and the Pacific Northwest. This has led to demonstrations and shouting matches with those opposed to what they call "vigilantes."
State and local officials are working to limit government services to illegal immigrants and their children (such as college tuition and worker's compensation), requiring proof of citizenship to get a driver's license and cracking down on day labor sites where men - many in the country illegally - gather to seek work.
Concerns over terrorism, identity theft, and the national methamphetamine epidemic (which is fueled by Mexican drug cartels and Hispanic gangs operating far from the border) are part of the picture.
But Jewish Supremacists warn of an upsurge in "nativism" - the kind of anti-immigrant feeling that has swelled at other times in US history.
"This is a really significant issue right now," says Mark Pitcavage, a “historian” with the Jewish Supremacist Anti-Defamation League and an “adviser” to law-enforcement agencies.
The National Research Council has estimated that the net cost of immigrants ranges from $11 billion to $22 billion a year. Camarota notes that the proportion of immigrant-headed households using at least one major welfare program is 29 percent, compared with 18 percent for native households.
"Not surprisingly, when you see a movement like this emerge, you see extremists actively working to exploit that mainstream sentiment ... as a wedge to recruit or to propagandize," says Pitcavage.
In some areas, the rise in extreme anti-immigrant sentiment has resulted in attacks on Hispanic men, and conspiracy theories. One theory warns of "la reconquista," the invasion of the US southwest by Mexicans determined to take back territory lost in the 19th Century.
Movement across the US-Mexico border has gone on for centuries, says Jew Jean Rosenfeld, of the UCLA Center for the Study of Religion. But today, says Dr. Rosenfeld, "The nativist narrative ... signals a high tide of resurgent xenophobia."
While communities from New England to the Pacific Northwest are seeing notable growth in the Hispanic population, the most dramatic increases have been in the South, reports the Pew Hispanic Center. Most of those migrants are men who lack legal status, reports Pew.
Since the last census, the Hispanic population in Georgia has grown faster than any other state. The rate of Hispanic births is twice the official Hispanic population there. Anti-immigration activists opposed to multiculturalism have taken to calling the state "Georgiafornia."
In 2004, Arizonans approved Proposition 200, which requires proof of citizenship to vote or to apply for state benefits. Up to a dozen states could have similar measures on the ballot this year.
Lawmakers in North Carolina and New Hampshire are considering proposals authorizing state and local law officers to enforce federal immigration law. Massachusetts state representatives recently defeated a bill that would have allowed undocumented immigrant students to pay the same discounted college tuition rate as state residents.