15 Jan 2018

Italian official: Failed citizenship law ‘betrayed’ immigrant youth  

A short-sighted decision by the Italian government will affect hundreds of thousands of immigrant youth, the president of the Italian Chamber of Deputies says.

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Italian official: Failed
citizenship law ‘betrayed’ immigrant youth 


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Why this story matters:

migration, youth

The Italian government made a short-sighted decision when it failed to reform the country’s citizenship laws at the end of 2017, the president of the Italian Chamber of Deputies said last week.

“It was a great betrayal. There is no other word for it — a great betrayal,” Laura Boldrini, who has led the lower house of Parliament since 2013, said on Sunday.

Boldrini’s majority Democratic Party had vowed to pass a law extending citizenship rights to children born in Italy to non-E.U. parents — or to those who arrive by age 12 — once they have attended at least five years of Italian schooling.

Currently, about 800,000 “new generation” youth cannot apply for citizenship until they turn 18 and demonstrate 10 years of continuous legal residence — even if they read and speak the language fluently and personally identify as Italian. 

The Italian Senate was expected to vote on the proposed immigration reforms in late June, but the issue was postponed repeatedly until President Sergio Mattarella finally dissolved Parliament on Dec. 27 without calling for a vote.

A new Parliament will be convened following general elections in March. Boldrini said the ruling Democratic Party coalition failed to vote on the measure because it was afraid of losing seats in that election — a move that she described as short sighted.

“Following the right means strengthening them and letting them win,” she said.

Over the past year, activist groups such as Italiani Senza Cittadinanza, or Italians without Citizenship, have put increasingly intense pressure on Parliament to shorten the long, uncertain path to citizenship for new-generation Italians.

The current law leaves many of immigrant youth feeling isolated and alienated from their peers because they identify as Italian but know the state doesn’t see them that way.

The debate is part of a larger conversation taking place across the Continent about what it means to be European, as changing demographics are forcing many countries to reexamine both their legal and cultural notions of citizenship.

 -- by Janna Brancolini

Details from the story:

  • Italian citizenship is currently based on ius sanguinis, or right of blood, meaning citizenship is only granted to children born to Italian parents.   
  • Over the past few years, “new-generation Italian” activists have pushed for legal reform based on ius soli, or right of soil, that would grant citizenship to all children born or raised in Italy, regardless of their ancestry.
  • The new law takes a hybrid approach that has been described as “ius culturae,” or right of culture, in that it recognizes that a shared culture arises among children who are raised and educated in Italy.
  • The new law has been subject to a misinformation campaign led by right-wing political parties, which claim it would automatically grant citizenship to the hundreds of thousands of refugees who have flowed into Italy from Northern Africa and the Middle East as part of Europe’s migration crisis.  

**Janna Brancolini is an American lawyer and award-winning journalist based in Italy. She has written extensively on European law and politics, with a focus on democracy, rule of law and human rights. Her work has been published by NBC, CBS, Thomson Reuters-West, the San Francisco Chronicle and the California Journal of International Law, among others. She was previously awarded a Fulbright Grant to research how Italy’s criminal libel laws impact freedom of the press.**


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