The Tea Party has more in common with immigration-reform advocates than you think

Recently, I was one of thousands of people who gathered outside the Supreme Court in support of two changes to American immigration policy. The high court was hearing opening arguments in the challenge brought by Texas and more than 20 other states to two policies implemented by President Obama.

The two polices are: The Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA), announced in 2014 and an expansion to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which started in 2012. DAPA would protect parents of U.S. Citizens and U.S. permanent residents from deportation and allow them to apply for a three-year work permit. DACA allows children who enter the U.S. before their 16th birthday to qualify for a renewable two-year work permit, amd protects them from deportation.

Immigration reform supporters a rally outside of the Supreme Court
Tom Williams | CQ Roll Call | Getty Images
Immigration reform supporters a rally outside of the Supreme Court

The issue is near and dear to me. I came to the U.S. as a kid and was undocumented for over a decade, including some of the years I spent climbing the corporate ladder at Goldman Sachs.

The entire time, I was afraid that my secret would be revealed and I would be sent back to Mexico. I had already been separated from my parents for many years while they were trying to set up a life for us in America — I didn't want to be separated again. While I am now a U.S. citizen, my sister continues to be undocumented and would benefit from DAPA.

In addition to those of us there to support immigration reform, there was also a small group of Tea Party supporters in the crowd — they were sitting with their back to the Supreme Court and behind them a mariachi sang the National Anthem before the rally officially began.

A Tea Party protester, maybe 60 years old, took off his hat, but didn't get up from his chair. He proceeded to put his right hand over his chest and we both sang, "…for the land of the free … and the home of the brave." And then it hit me: We both believe in America, and we are both fighting for the future of our country, and when it comes to DAPA, we actually have much in common.

The Tea Party believes in the reduction of the U.S. national debt and the economic activity that DAPA would create would help with that goal. The Tea Party believes in national security and DAPA would help to create accountability of immigrants in the country, taking people out of the shadows is national security. The Tea Party believes in conservative values, and what is more conservative than keeping families together?

Inside the court, a coalition of states led by Texas and the federal government made their case in front of an incomplete bench of Supreme Court Justices over the legality of DAPA. President Obama announced DAPA on Nov. 20, 2014, and shortly after, Texas, along with 25 other states, sued the federal government. While the program remains tied up in the courts, over 4 million lives continue to remain in limbo.

DAPA will keep families together, it will keep children, most of them Latino, out of the foster-care system if their parents were to be deported. DAPA will ensure that an entire generation of U.S. children have the opportunity for economic mobility because their parents can work legally in the country. DAPA is not only good for the undocumented community, it is good for America.

According to the Center for American Progress, DAPA would help to increase GDP by $230 billion over the next 10 years. That kind of boost in economic activity would help to create an average of 28,814 jobs for ALL Americans over the next 10 years.

The legal battle is not, of course, about the positive economic impact, or of keeping families together, a long-held American value. If it were, DAPA would have been implemented 18 months ago. On legal grounds, the National Immigration Law Center, of which I am a board member, believes that Texas and the other states have no legal standing in this case.

The consequences of ruling in favor of Texas will reach far beyond this case, as it would create a path for states to sue the federal government any time they do not like any policy or program, even if the program does not bear any harm to the states.

At the conclusion of the oral arguments, La Santa Cecilia, a Mexican-American band with cumbia and bossa nova sounds, played outside the Supreme Court as DAPA supporters chanted to keep families together. As I looked around the crowd, I saw the future of America. I am hopeful that the Supreme Court will rule in our favor in order for our bright future to get underway.

Commentary by Julissa Arce, the author of the forthcoming book, "My (Underground) American Dream" (Sept. 13, 2016). Arce made national and international headlines when she revealed that she had achieved the American Dream of wealth and status working her way up to vice president at Goldman Sachs by age 27 while being an undocumented immigrant from Mexico. Follow her on Twitter @julissaarce.

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