08/22/2013 03:54 pm ET Updated Oct 22, 2013

Not Drug Runners, Not Dogs: Standing Up to the Right's Anti-Immigrant Bigotry

Senators and representatives are well into their August recess, but some of them left behind pretty hateful words about Latino immigrants before they went. We have been told recently that many immigrants are drug-runners. We have heard them compared to dogs or even rats. While Latinos and Latinas have long fought against bigotry and lies about our communities, recent remarks from the far right fringe of the Republican party have reached a new pitch.

Last month Rep. Steve King voiced his now-infamous claim that most young undocumented immigrants are drug runners with "calves the size of cantaloupes because they've been hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert." This is the same representative who got an amendment passed in the House defunding a policy that defers deportations of DREAMers. King's brand of extremism doesn't just offend -- it threatens to rip apart families and limit the scope of young immigrants' lives.

Those of us who have devoted our life's work to creating a better life for workers, for immigrants, for women, y para todos know the danger inherent in denying someone else's humanity. All communities deserve respect, and when our representatives smear entire communities as drug runners or compare them to animals, it diminishes both their humanity and the dignity of our civic discourse.

In reality, immigrants -- both documented and undocumented -- are a vital part of all American communities. Passing realistic and commonsense immigration reforms, like creating a roadmap to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in the country today, makes our country better for everyone. Why? Because immigrants make immeasurable contributions to our country each day. They are building houses, running small businesses, caring for children and seniors, and so much more. Immigrants enrich our communities with the diversity of their backgrounds and experiences. And despite the lies the far right has been pushing, immigrants are good for our country's economy, adding billions to the economy and creating millions of jobs.

This August, we are not sitting on our hands and letting far right Republicans in Congress block immigration reform without a fight. Making the case for a common-sense immigration policy in the House is an uphill battle, no question. But we have faced uphill battles before - with strength and resolve. We have to educate our communities and representatives about the humanity of immigrants and the value they have always brought and continue to bring to our country. We have to organize and educate our communities about the work organizations like People For the American Way are doing to expose the lies that the right-wing fringe likes to tell about immigrants.

And while Republicans in Congress are home in their districts this recess, they have to think about whose side they are on in this fight. Are they with their party's extreme fringe, pushing bigoted lies about immigrant communities? Or are they with the majority of their party -- as well as the majority of their country -- in supporting a humane, commonsense immigration policy that would make this country better for everyone?