THOUSAND PALMS, Calif. -

The immigration crisis is being caused by tens of thousands of people deciding to risk everything to cross the border illegally.

Many argue if they want to come here they should do it legally.

News Channel 3 takes a closer look at what the "legal" process is and why so many people seem to think the risk to come here illegally is worth it.

"If you're here, you're undocumented, there is no pathway?" That's what we asked Karan Kler, the Executive Director of Coachella Valley Immigration Services, accredited by the board of immigration appeals.

"That is correct, and there is no way for you to return either," Kler said.

To obtain citizenship, an immigrant must first obtain a visa, also known as a green card, but the current immigration process limits the number of people admitted legally to the U.S. each year. 

"If you have a visa it means you are coming here temporarily for a purpose," Kler explained.

But obtaining that visa can be a difficult and lengthy process. 

One way to qualify: having a spouse or immediate relative who's already a U.S. citizen and can apply for you.

"Siblings of U.S. citizens, children of U.S. citizens who have to wait a long time depending on what country you come from," Kler said.

That's because no one country can receive more than seven percent of the available visas in any year. The demand for visas from Mexico, India, China and the Philippines top the list, with average wait times ranging from 10 to more than 20 years for a green card.
 
Another way to get a visa: getting a job offer from a U.S. employer. But the employer must prove to the Department of Labor no one in the U.S. is willing or capable to perform the job. 

"We already have enough unemployment in this country, so we're only taking the creme-de-la-creme of other countries through employment-based applications," Kler said.

And the third path to residency is through refugee or asylum status, which may be how the federal government ultimately treats some of the detainees who crossed the border from Central America.

"I think children are coming out of pure desperation. Families are sending women and children first, it's like the old Titanic days, because something's sinking somewhere," Kler said.

That process takes extensive vetting. The U.S. currently has more than 12 million undocumented immigrants, many of whom are ineligible to apply for any kind of a visa.

"If you're an adult and you've been here less than 10 years, there's no pathway to residency, back you go," Kler said of the undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally. Exceptions to this exist, but are rare.

For more information visit:

http://www.uscis.gov/

http://www.cvisa.org/