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Immigration Moves Front and Center in Italy’s Local Elections

Shoving has broken out in Parliament over the center-left government’s proposal to extend citizenship to the children of migrants born on Italian soil.

All over, parties and politicians are shifting to a tougher stance.

After the first round of voting on June 11 delivered a setback to the surging anti-establishment Five Star Movement, it adopted a notably harder line on immigration. One of its highest-profile politicians, Rome’s embattled mayor, Virginia Raggi, called for a moratorium on new immigrants.

Champions of a more welcoming approach to immigrants have not fared well.

In Lampedusa, the Sicilian island that became the emblem of Italy’s immigration issue after years of inundation by desperate migrants, the Democratic Party mayor had become an international symbol of Italy’s open arms. She failed even to make it to Sunday’s runoff.

Here in Como, Sunday’s election could well be determined by the debate over what to do with the hundreds of African migrants hoping to go north to Switzerland or Northern Europe for jobs.

As seaplanes glided to dock and women in sun hats sipped aperitifs, scores of African migrants gathered, looking at the verdant mountains standing guard between the placid lake and Switzerland.

“I can’t go anywhere,” said Fofana Abdoulaye, a 31-year-old migrant from the Ivory Coast, as he stood in the shadow of the city’s landmark Volta Temple.

Photo

A supporter of Giorgia Meloni, the leader of the law-and-order Brothers of Italy party, took a selfie with her at the end of Mr. Landriscina’s rally. Credit Gianni Cipriano for The New York Times

While he and other migrants spoke of their appreciation of Italy’s humanitarian efforts to save them from the Mediterranean Sea, they also expressed exhaustion with the country’s intricate web of permits and papers and European agreements that required them to stay in the country that first documented them.

But locals, too, were exasperated.

“It’s a horrible calling card for the city,” Enrica Tattamanti, 65, said as she watched her granddaughter, Benedetta, play next to Lake Como.

She worried that funds redirected to migrants deprived the town’s handicapped citizens of services and complained that any protest prompted accusations of racism. “I hope the center right wins,” she said.

Its candidate, Mr. Landriscina, argues for closing migrant reception centers and removing the migrants who he argued did not want to be here to begin with, to relieve mounting tension between Como’s locals and immigrants who he said made no effort to integrate.

“It’s a problem where the conflict — a little bit ethnic, a little bit religious — risks creating tension,” said Mr. Landriscina, who just finished a book about Rudolph W. Giuliani’s time as mayor of New York.

If elected, he said, he would go to Rome, which has jurisdiction over such issues, and appeal for a change.

Source: NYT > World

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