By Kay Quinn
St. Louis (KSDK) - He owns a car, works a full-time job, and graduated from Parkway North High School.
But the man you're about to meet is one of thousands of illegal immigrants living in our area.
We're not using his real name, but calling him Daniel for this story. He's one of thousands applying for the Obama administration's new deferred action program.
NewsChannel 5's Kay Quinn sat down to talk with him.
[Reporter]: "Do you consider yourself a St. Louisan?"
"I do, I definitely do," said Daniel. "Everything I know about is from here."
Daniel was living in Santa Fe, Mexico when he moved to St. Louis. It was 1997, just before third grade. He has no driver's license, no state I.D., no work permit.
"I've been here since I was eight," said Daniel, "so I learned along the way how to deal with it. I drive carefully when I drive, I don't get in trouble I've never been in trouble and I want to keep it like that."
Daniel initially wanted to do his interview on-camera. But because doesn't want to put his family or his employer at risk, he decided to have us photograph his shadow. He's one of thousands who started applying for a social security number and protection from deportation when it first became available yesterday under the "Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals" program.
Those who are eligible must be 30 or younger, and moved here before they were 16.
Around 1.7 million people are expected to qualify.
In spite of the barriers he's faced, Daniel has no regrets about his parents moving him here.
"I also do consider myself American because I grew up here and I work here," said Daniel. "I went to school here, and everything I know is from here, and so I consider myself both Mexican and American."
Like many undocumented workers, Daniel pays taxes, but can't get any benefits.
We wanted to know how many people like Daniel live in the St. Louis Metro area. That includes counties on both sides of the river.
The one thing most experts can agree on is no one has a good handle on exactly what that number is.
But let's take a look at one estimate. Of the 2.8 million people living in the Metro area in 2010, anywhere from 50,000 to 150,000 are undocumented.
For some perspective, about 47,000 people fit in Busch Stadium during a complete sell-out.
Between seven million and 20 million illegal immigrants are estimated to be living in the United States. The majority are from Mexico.
"We hear, 'why don't you stand in line?' but there is no line," said Vanessa Crawford Aragon, Executive Director of MIRA, which stands for Missouri Immigrant and Refugee Advocates.
She likes the deferred action program because she believes the immigration system so complicated and cumbersome; there is no way for people like Daniel to get status.
"This still keeps people in limbo but it gives them a little bit of breathing room for a couple of years," said Crawford Aragon.
But a local immigration attorney, who identifies herself as a Republican, disagrees.
"I think this gives people a little bit of false hope in that they think that something's changing," said Jasha McQueen.
McQueen agrees the immigration system is broken, but she believes what's needed is real reform, not deferred action which was enacted by President Obama.
"The only way that something could really change is if you change the laws, and right now this is just policy," said McQueen.
Stop-gap measure or not, Daniel says he'll be able to do so many more things with a work permit.
"Maybe look into getting a business, if I could go to school, that would be great, be able to travel to places much easier," said Daniel. "I just want to keep my life going in the right direction, and just focus on that."
The deferred action program is open to immigrants under 31 who arrived here before they were 16.
Since 2001, members of congress have made several efforts to approve a bill called the DREAM Act, which contains many of the provisions included in deferred action.
But no version of the measure has ever been passed.