Steve Sailer has a piece about Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Jordan's commission on immigration in 1994. As with so many debates in this country, look what has changed in less than 20 years. That the good of our own current citizens counted for more than those knocking at the door - citizenism - was considered automatic. That exceptions were to be made mostly in the case of special skills in short supply was also generally accepted. In the 1990's it was noted that the distinction between legal and illegal immigration was eroding in the public mind, and this was held to be the fault of poor enforcement, not because opponents were bigots who hated all immigrants. I don't recall even hearing that argument until the late 1990's, in fact. It came to the fore uncomfortably a few years later when the husband of a woman at our church made that claim publicly. He was an immigration attorney, originally from Chile himself, and made the accusation in relation to the actions of a police department in the southern part of the state.
He did not state that some people who claimed to be against illegal immigration were only using it as a cover for their dislike of all immigrants; in a letter to the Concord Monitor, he declared categorically that all people claiming to be opposed to illegal immigration were lying, covering for their bigotry against all immigrants.
As someone who had just spent thousands of dollars bringing two immigrants into my family, who had worked resettling refugees, I found this deeply insulting. I didn't mention it to his wife, and wondered for some time what I might say if he came to some function at the church. As they were activist sorts, I feared he might even want to address us on that issue at some time. His wife taught adult Sunday School, and spouses who were not actual believers did speak at seminars occasionally. She was a very nice woman, but quite liberal in her politics, and these sorts of unconsciously offensive statements would sometimes come from her mouth as well. She remains one of my best examples of nice liberals who simply don't hear themselves. They are used to social groups where such beliefs about those who disagree with them are matter-of-fact. Opponents do not have values they don't share or logical points they don't agree with. Opponents are ignorant, or prejudiced, or badly-raised. They don't want to yell at them or be mean to them, and they are willing to gradually and patiently teach those poor benighted others. Nice people. With horribly bigoted attitudes that they are unaware of.
She eventually left the church because we were not welcoming toward homosexuals - by which she meant of course, that we did not actively denounce the historical Christian teachings on the subject. Not that she saw it that way. She was a nice person, she tried to say this gently and politely. That it might be she who is prejudiced would simply not occur to her, and accusations of same disregarded. (Another similarly-insulting spouse - perhaps coincidentally also a lawyer - prevailed upon his wife to leave the church a bit later. It is likely that my mild pushback to one of his statements was the proximate cause.)
Conservatives say similar things to liberals, of course, perhaps especially in churches where they feel they are "among their own" and not expecting that anyone present disagrees. But I never noticed that happening - conservatives would make statements, even pronouncements, that might have been uncomfortable to listen to - yet not general attacks on character.
Plus, the irony is greater because it is tolerance that is supposedly one of the highest values, and standing against bigotry one of the greatest acts.