Baptist 'Dreamers' Speak Up About Immigration

As a member of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, Jose Ocampo is urging his fellow Southern Baptists to listen to his story and the stories of other “Dreamers.” Ocampo’s endgame is to encourage fellow Christians to be politically active as our government seeks to find a solution to DACA.

Ocampo attends Wingate University, where he is a junior studying marketing and accounting. Currently serving part-time as a youth pastor at Hickory Grove Baptist Church located in Charlotte, N.C., his future plans include attending seminary.

Speaking to Baptist Press, Ocampo relates his family’s story:

Ocampo, who was born [in] a small town in southwestern Mexico, Buena Vista de Cuellar, was 2 months old when his mother trekked across the U.S. border in Tijuana with him and his 6-year-old brother.

A few weeks after crossing into California, they travelled to North Carolina to reunite with Ocampo’s father, who had been in the U.S. for months, finding a job and preparing for their arrival.

The family moved in with relatives and have lived in the Charlotte area nearly 23 years.

It wasn’t until Ocampo’s sophomore year of high school that he came to terms with his family’s undocumented status — with the implications of being in the country illegally becoming more concerning when he learned he would not be able to enroll in college.

The DACA program provided a temporary solution that allowed Ocampo to continue his education after completing the application process in 2013, his senior year of high school. Ocampo enrolled at Central Piedmont Community College and transferred to Wingate two years later.

This past November, Ocampo traveled to Washington, D.C., to discuss DACA in light of his own story. BP reports:

For the Washington trip, Ocampo worked with Walter Strickland, first vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s associate vice president of Kingdom Diversity Initiatives; Travis Wussow, vice president for public policy for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC); and other Baptist leaders.

They attended the National Immigration Forum, where Ocampo spoke about his experiences, in addition to having multiple meetings on Capitol Hill and at the White House.

In an interview with the Biblical Recorder, Ocampo said, “Immigration is more than a political issue. As Christians we’re called to love as Jesus did. We’re called to love our neighbors.”

Recognizing that Ocampo words are correct does not require a wholesale embrace of open borders. Part of loving our neighbors involves helping to make sure that they are safe and that society’s infrastructure isn’t overburdened. However, many conservative Christians have allowed their views of immigration to be wholly defined by politics. In doing so, they forget that immigrants are first and foremost image bearers of God. What’s more, “Dreamers” like Ocampo are innocent parties, and it is incumbent upon society to love them and to find a way to serve them.

As Russell Moore urges, “Dreamers have been working as productive members of our communities and sitting in the pews next to us in our churches. They are parts of families, including many who are parents of U.S. citizen children. Dreamers have come forward at the invitation and request of the federal government — and now the government has changed the rules. So the Congress has a responsibility to act, and to do so quickly. Justice delayed is justice denied.”