In Southern California, the Dream Act is as anticipated as it is controversial. Thousands turned out to apply for President Barack Obama's executive order granting eligible undocumented applicant temporary deportation relief. Crescenio Calderon, 20, of Los Angeles was one of the many hopefuls who had the change to apply. Michelle Valles reports from Downtown Los Angeles for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on August 15, 2012.
On the first day that young, undocumented immigrants could apply to legally work in the United States -- and have their potential deportation deferred -- a 20-year-old activist from Southern California got a surprise.
A supporter of the "DREAM Act," 20-year-old Crescencio Calderon had come down to the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights headquarters in Los Angeles to help others with the new process for U.S. residents who were brought here illegally by their families.
It was made possible by an executive order from President Barack Obama, and some 1.7 million immigrants are expected to be elgible. Long lines formed at immigration centers across the country.
Though he didn't expect to file his own application, Calderon brought his own paperwork just in case.
Then organizers at the center told him to guide media through the process by showing his own eight-hour filing to cameras. He had planned only to volunteer.
"That's my calling; that's my values," Calderon said.
He paid a $40 processing fee, then went through an hour-long orientation.
Like Calderon, other immigrants had to have completed a checklist of documents, have an appointment and attend orientation before they could go through the "Dream Act" process.
Those who have been volunteering with California Dream Act or with the Coalition for Humane Immigrants’ Rights of LA (CHIRLA) had priority on Wednesday. Even with that special treatment, the process was long, confusing and tedious for Calderon and others.
Calderon said he was one of many.
"I'm undocumented yet the trustee of my school, president of the immigrant support, and vice president of honor society. And like me, there are tons and tons of students out there," Calderon said.
Calderon has waited for this moment since he arrived in the United States 12 years ago.
He kept his poise Wednesday.
Even when the copy machine broke down, Calderon laughed, saying, "the machine is standing between me and my future."
Despite being more prepared for this process than most, he still missed a few things -- including getting his birth certificate translated.
His advice to those coming to apply is to have three copies of each document -- to avoid depending on someone else's copier -- and to plan on being there all day.
Now he just needs to send his packet in the mail with a $465 money order and wait to see if his application is approved.
"It's worth it," Calderon said, "if you consider what comes after this."