...Mexicans and other immigrants, legal or not, further confirmed the superiority of democracy, individual liberty and free markets. Even if we had some reservations about their arrival, we took it as a compliment that they were willing to go to such lengths to reach our soil.
But in 1989, the Berlin Wall came down, and in due course, both the Soviet empire and the Soviet Union expired. Those events soon altered the general perception of foreign newcomers. Instead of an endorsement of our way of life, illegal immigrants (and even legal ones) were increasingly seen as a threat to it.
Nice try, Steve. The real reason for the shift is that in 1980, the Republican Party was still very much a Western party: Goldwater, Nixon, Reagan and even H.W. (no, West Texas is not the South).
Today, the GOP is based in the Old Confederacy, and the South has very different, shall we say -- attitudes -- about ethnicity and immigration than anywhere else in the country.