Columbus, national experts weigh in on immigration reform

Columbus, national experts weigh in on immigration reform

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - As the U.S. agrees to accept thousands more refugees fleeing from turmoil in the Middle East, immigration concerns heat up.

Currently, there are more than 40 million adult immigrants in the nation, and data from the Census Bureau shows that number is expected to reach 78 million by the year 2060. While some may be concerned, almost half of all undocumented immigrants enter the U.S. legally.

Immigration is a topic consistently on the radar for many U.S. government leaders. Even Pope Francis addressed the issue many times during his first visit to the states this week.

"As the son of an immigrant family, I am happy to be a guest in this country, which was largely built by such families." said Pope Francis during a meeting with President Barack Obama.

There are 41 million immigrants and 37.1 million U.S.-born children of immigrants in the United States.

Harvard sociology professor Mary Waters said immigrants can be better for communities.

"Immigrants create a lot less crime than the native born. They are incarcerated about 1/4 the rate of native born and cities that have a lot of immigrants see their crime rates go down," said Dr. Mary Waters, Harvard Sociology Professor.

With the ongoing Syrian Refugee Crisis bringing 10,000 refugees to the U.S., a Columbus State University political science professor weighs in.

"Many European countries say the U.S ought to be doing more to bring Syrians and Refugees over to here. It would be easy for Americans to say  that's not our problem that's happening in your backyard." said Dr. Tom Dolan.

Dr. Waters says for undocumented immigrants, being part of American society helps to improve their educational, occupational and other opportunities.

"They are healthier than native born Americans, they smoke less and are less obese. They live on average three and a half years longer," said Waters.

In Muscogee County on September 8, 40 immigrants representing 22 countries took a oath of allegiance to become U.S citizens.

A naturalization office opened on Fort Benning within the last 6 months to help non-American service members serving for the U.S. - to get their citizenship.

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