The Italian right and immigration doublespeak

The members of Italy's nationalist League Party maintain they are not against immigration, and only oppose illegal migrants. But their language and voting patterns tell another story. 

Janna Brancolini
Janna Brancolini Kheiro Magazine, Italy
Source: Kheiro Magazine
The Italian right and immigration doublespeak - NewsMavens
Toni Iwobi. Facebook

Why this story matters:

On Sunday, their long-time member Toni Iwobi, a 62-year-old immigrant from Nigeria, became Italy's first black senator.They claim to have thus proven the party is neither racist nor xenophobic.

After his victory, Iwobi made the following statement:

“I want to stress that the League isn’t against immigration as such -- nobody in this world can stop people moving, it’s in the human DNA. But we are against illegal immigration.”

In reality, the League has a long track record of attempts at punishing immigrants who are living in the country legally.

It has repeatedly blocked efforts to grant citizenship rights to young people raised and educated in Italy, and it often conflates immigration with radical jihadist Islam to justify its nationalist policies. Party leaders have called for a "mass cleaning" of migrants and have described "the Islam of today" as a "danger" to Italy.

Their actions make it clear that the League has a problem with all immigrants, not just unlawful ones.

Details from the story:

  • One of the League's major party slogans during the election was "Stop the Invasion," making it seem like Italy is under attack from illegal immigrants both from the outside and from within.
  • Last year, the League helped defeat an immigration reform bill that would have granted citizenship rights to children born in Italy to immigrant parents -- or who arrived before age 12 -- once they attended at least five years of Italian schooling.
  • Despite all its talk of cleaning up the country and returning to the rules, the League platform does not address corruption, the Mafia or money laundering scandals that have plagued Italy in recent years.
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