To be anti-immigrant is one thing, to be against innocent children is another

by Guido Bolaffi - 2017.06.19
To be anti-immigrant is one thing, to be  against innocent children is another
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Politicians who passionately debate issues involving individual rights, without grasping what is truly at stake, are committing an egregious error, placing Democracy itself at risk. A perfect example of this is what occurred in Italy in these last few days regarding modification of the existing law regarding the granting of citizenship to children of immigrants: instead of helping the average citizen understand the key issues, political representatives of all parties contributed only to creating more confusion and a sense of alarm. An error that opponents to the new measure before the Senate could have easily avoided, seeing as it neither changes drastically nor destroys altogether the law that is currently in force, and thus, does not, as they accused, open the door to foreign invasion. The proposed modifications are actually only improvements on two key points which have been ignored for too long and which, in effect, appeal to common sense. Let’s look at each one separately.

First point: according to the newly proposed law “citizenship is acquired by birth by he/she who is born in the territory of the Republic, from foreign parents of which at least one who has been granted permanent residency or is in possession of a long-term residency permit granted by the European Union. The subject, in these cases, within two years of reaching majority age, must: a) renounce his/her acquired citizenship due to the acquisition of citizenship of another country; b) make a formal request to the official granting office of the state to acquire Italian citizenship, in the event that expression of the child’s desire for citizenship has not been communicated formally by the parents”.

To grasp the significance, motivation for, and the possibility for the occurrence of what has just been stated, it’s helpful to view the specific text of the current Italian law (n.91 del 1992): “the foreigner who is born in Italy can become an Italian citizen if he/she has resided legally and without interruption until majority age, and declares the desire to obtain Italian citizenship”. The words “without interruption” were highlighted in bold intentionally because the new law is centered precisely the modification of these words. Not only to avoid, as has happened numerous times, that a student who is the child of immigrant parents gets refused entry into another European country while on a school field trip abroad, because he/she does not fulfill the requirements of Schengen, in that his/her parents are not considered EU citizens. But, mostly to expose the perfidious and punitive nature of a regulation that could, for example, penalize a child of immigrants who, simply for having gone to meet his/her grandparents in their native country (and that of a parent/parents), or for having spent time with friends on a trip outside of Italy, renounces the possibility of acquiring citizenship, merely because of this violation of the “no interruption” requirement (as legal resident).

Second point: the measure in discussion adds: ”Italian citizenship is acquired by the minor foreigner either born in Italy or who entered Italy within completing his/her twelfth birthday, and who has regularly attended, in accordance with current legislation, at least 5 years of regular instruction or participated in, within the national territory, programs offered by an institution that is part of nationally approved professional training, that has a duration of three or four years, insomuch as the program confers a professional qualification. In the event that the course in question is that of primary education, it is also necessary to complete this course”. Presuming, of course, that it would be difficult for anyone to not agree with this proposal, it does indeed serve to overcome two shortcomings. The first, the fact that in a family with two children, a minor child can become an Italian citizen due to having been born in Italy, while his/her older sibling is denied this right, merely because of having been born before the parents decided to emigrate to Italy. The second, the persistence of a conception of citizenship associated with something inherited from one’s parents, rather than something of value to aim for, with education representing the means with which to achieve it.

Published in Citizenship.
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