Although efforts have been made to streamline the system, waiting lists haven't budged in the past year, according to a study released last week from the National Foundation for American Policy, a nonprofit research group.
"Behind every statistic related to waiting lists and backlogs stands tens of thousands of individuals and their family members," the study states. "The best way to honor legal immigrants both now and in the future is to solve the immigration and backlog problems that cause such pain, frustration and heartache."
So far, the Senate has heard the pleas for reform. The immigration bill would raise the annual number of slots available for family-based immigration from 226,000 to 480,000.
"It makes a tremendous difference to family members, particularly from Mexico and the Philippines," said Williams. "I think it will help enormously to bring most of the quota backlogs at least reasonably close to current."
Advocates hope the House of Representatives, which passed a more stringent immigration measure in December, will consider the Senate plan.
To others, however, the thousands of legal immigrants arriving in the U.S. raise policy concerns. Camarota, whose group advocates for stricter immigration policies, said that while the wait lists are unfair, immigrants who come through family channels tend to have the lowest levels of educational attainment, raising concerns about the future of the American economy.
The issue of legal immigration deserves its own debate, he said.
"In many ways, the dramatic increases in legal immigration are maybe more important to the nation as a whole," he said.
But Andino doesn't see it that way. She maintains that since arriving in the U.S. she has played by the rules and doesn't understand why her family must continue to be separated.
"I'm a citizen, I love this life," she said. "But I want my family with me."