By Robbie Owens

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Lured by the promise of jobs and opportunities, or escape from persecution, immigrants from around the world are eager to come to America. But, getting here — legal or not — is no easy task.

“Es muy dificil,” said Maria Diaz. “Very difficult,” indeed. With the help of a translator, Diaz explained that she immigrated to America legally some eight years ago. She’s spent the years since working to sponsor her adult daughter, so she can do the same — legally. But, she’s still waiting. “It would be a faster process for me and my family,” said Diaz. “I would rather people do it legally.”

Immigration attorney Pallavi Ahluwalia agrees that the legal wait is long.

“She’s going to wait another 15 years… before the child shows up,” said Ahluwali. “So she was 30 when she sponsored her and by the time she comes here, she may be 55.”

A 25-year wait.

Ahluwalia said she takes no issue with the outrage over separating immigrant children from their parents at the border. But, she warns that under a dysfunctional immigration system, children brought to America legally could face the same fate.

“Basically, my whole live, I’ve been here and that’s all I know is the U.S.,” said Rohan Kurella.

Rohan Kurella (CBS11)

Kurella’s parents brought him to America from Canada legally when he was 10. When he turns 21 in a few months, he will lose his protection under his parent’s green card. But, it’s taken so long to earn his own permanent status, that he could be forced to leave the country — or be deported to Canada.

He is a college student, so he is hoping to pursue avenues to remain in the U.S. legally on his own. Still, he said, “The fact that I could potentially have to leave when my parents and we have done everything legally and followed the rules, and just been waiting, patiently. I don’t think it’s fair. For us to have to go back.”

So why is the wait so long?

The system is complicated. There is the sheer demand and limited availability of slots. According to a recent U.S. State Department bulletin, green cards (denoting permanent residence status) are just now being awarded to immigrants with advanced degrees from India who applied in March of 2009 — and that marker has not moved, attorneys say, in the past four years.

Applications for family sponsorships from Mexico are now at the top of the list when filed in 1997 — 21 years ago.

“People are not looking at that plight of the ones who have done their best and gone through attorneys, the system and properly maintained their status here,” said Ahluwalia. “They are struggling too.”