(Updated Jan. 9, 1:15 p.m.)
Jose Ocampo, a member of Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte and junior at Wingate University, is urging U.S. lawmakers to develop a legislative fix that would protect Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program recipients, like him, from deportation once the policy expires in early March.
Jose Ocampo shared about his life during a recent trip to Capitol Hill to urge lawmakers to protect Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program recipients.
In November, he joined a group of fellow Southern Baptists in Washington, D.C., to lobby for a permanent solution by sharing his experiences growing up in North Carolina as an undocumented immigrant. Ocampo wants more people to understand the uncertainty faced by DACA recipients, often called “Dreamers.”
“Many people are unaware of who we are and what we’re going through,” he told the Biblical Recorder in a phone interview.
In September, President Donald Trump rescinded the DACA program, a policy initiated by the Obama administration to protect nearly 800,000 young undocumented immigrants from deportation who were brought to the U.S. as children, through no fault of their own. President Trump’s directive allowed six months to phase out the program, which ends March 5.
Ocampo, who serves part-time as a youth director for the Latin American campus of Hickory Grove, worked with Walter Strickland, first vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention and associate vice president of Kingdom Diversity Initiatives at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; Travis Wussow, vice president for public policy at the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC); and other Southern Baptist leaders, to call for a legislative solution before time runs out.
They attended the National Immigration Forum, where Ocampo spoke about his experiences, and had multiple meetings on Capitol Hill and at the White House.
Ocampo was born in Buena Vista de Cuellar, a small town in Guerrero, Mexico, in the southwestern region of the country. He 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 for 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, and the implications of being in the country illegally grew more concerning when he discovered he would not be able to enroll in college.
The DACA program provided a temporary solution that allowed Ocampo to continue his education. He completed the application process in 2013, his senior year.
After high school, Ocampo enrolled at Central Piedmont Community College, and transferred to Wingate two years later, where he is currently studying marketing and accounting, with plans to attend seminary for graduate studies.
“Immigration is more than a political issue,” Ocampo said, referring to his Christian faith.
“As Christians we’re called to love as Jesus did,” he said. “We’re called to love our neighbors.”
Ocampo has been encouraging other Christians to advocate for DACA-related legislation.
“We should be active in speaking to our politicians,” he said, adding that he felt positive about the recent visit to Capitol Hill.
Lawmakers are expected to meet in coming weeks to work on a legislative solution for Dreamers and other immigration-related issues.
President Trump made remarks Jan. 4 in a meeting with a Senate working group on immigration that “any legislation on DACA must secure the border with a wall,” in addition to increasing resources for immigration enforcement, ending family-based “chain migration” and the “visa lottery” system.
“We would love to take care of DACA but we’re only going to do it under these conditions,” President Trump said.
At the president’s request, working group member Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), said during the meeting, “When we’ve got the opportunity to provide a solution, achieve [the president’s] objectives and do something good for the DACA population, then I think we should.”
Ocampo recently told hosts of the ERLC’s Capitol Conversations podcast that DACA status acknowledges what he already knows to be true.
“I feel like this is where I belong – Charlotte, North Carolina. This is my home. I’ve grown with this community. I’ve grown with this city. I’ve seen this city grow. I feel like I’m a part of it. … to take a Dreamer out of their city is to take a piece of that city away.”
In a video posted on social media, Hickory Grove’s senior pastor, Clint Pressley, said “it makes perfect sense to have a legislative solution,” referring to the investment Dreamers like Ocampo have made in their community.
The Evangelical Immigration Table, a coalition of evangelical organizations and leaders who support immigration reform, released a letter Jan. 9 urging Congress to make passing DACA legislation a priority “without further delay.”
ERLC President Russell Moore, one of the letter’s signers, said, “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.”