Among the seven agendas approved by the National Assembly of the Democratic Party, the 4 and the 5 last February, there is also one concerning the "Democratic participation of the new Italians" .
Four points on which the PD is committed in this area, but the most important seems to be the one that wants "to guarantee an adequate representation of foreigners" in its bodies and "of the new Italians on the electoral lists at every level", in particular of the so-called 'second generations'. If the commitment goes beyond a declaration of intent and good intentions, it is destined to change the Italian political scene.
In the assembly, on behalf of the new Italians, Khalid Chaouki, immigration manager and second generation of Young Democrats and a member of the PD Immigration Forum intervened. Chaouki claimed the right of citizenship for citizens born in Italy from parents of foreign origin and, indeed, a greater involvement of foreign citizens in politics and in the "democratic life" of his party. Albania News interviewed him to talk about this issue but also about citizenship, the right to vote and the new PD campaign "I learn Italian and I am a citizen".
In your intervention to the assembly of the PD you have claimed the right of citizenship for those that the sociologists define "second generations" but in truth they are children or young people born in Italy from parents of foreign origin.
The fundamental message was precisely the fact of saying that we live in a country that continues to ignore the increasingly numerous presence of the so-called "second generation". Precisely, young and less young people who were born and raised in Italy, but who still today are considered foreigners and not recognized as citizens. It is a situation, as I also emphasized in the assembly, not worthy of a country that calls itself civil and democratic. Children who have never chosen to emigrate, but were born in Italy, must wait for 18 years as foreigners to apply for citizenship. This is no longer acceptable in a country where there are now tens of miles of these young people, an important part attends Italian schools and can no longer be considered foreigners. My invitation is addressed to all politicians, especially to my party, to the PD to do a strong battle to make sure that it changes this law, which is unfair in the first place.
What is the way out?
The way out is a radical reform that gives citizenship rights to children born in Italy. In addition, even for children who come from small schools who study in Italian schools today, a shorter, faster way to obtain Italian citizenship must be recognized. For example, it could be at the end of the fifth grade. But above all we need a change in mentality. Today, the issue of immigration is still used as a way to scare, frighten and get votes from a right wing, in many cases xenophobic, that does not recognize the role of so many immigrant workers and also of these children born and raised in Italy.
However, in these years also the center-left has been very shy regarding the issues of citizenship.
I agree and I think it's time to turn the page. And this is the meaning of our participation in the PD and the National Assembly last week. We want to say that today, we new Italians and immigrants present in the PD want to have a say. We want to participate and ensure that this party also represents our requests, which however concern the future of everyone in this country. Certainly in the past there have been several opportunities and missed opportunities, such as during the last Prodi government that in fact nothing has changed. And self-criticism is not enough. Instead, we need to show that we learned something from that lesson. But above all it is necessary that immigrants, new Italians, young people and the first generation, feel the need to actively participate within the parties and the PD in particular to ensure that this party truly represents our demands and those who are our legitimate rights.
I read that the PD National Assembly has decided to guarantee a significant presence of second generations in the governing bodies and in the electoral lists. Can you confirm it?
It was approved on the agenda and is generally linked to the democratic participation of the new Italians.
What does it mean?
It means that the party, meanwhile, recognizes the principle of equal opportunities also for the new Italians and immigrants, especially for the internal democratic life of the party, making sure that they participate in the elaboration of the projects. The Party undertakes to guarantee an adequate representation of foreigners in its bodies, in particular the second generations, and to support the right of administrative vote for resident immigrant citizens in every place. In other words, the PD is committed to doing a battle for the right to administrative vote, but above all within it, it will have to include a campaign to make sure that when there are primaries in the party, there is indeed inclusion of the new Italians, especially of the second generations.
So do you also confirm what has already been stated in your speech at the Assembly that there is a deficit of inclusion of the new Italians in the PD structures and in the local administrations governed by it?
Absolutely yes. I said it and it was a clear appeal to the Secretary Bersani and to the entire ruling class of the party there. Not enough has been done today. Certainly, the PD has already done so much compared to other Italian political parties, but we must have more courage in including the new Italians in the party. We need to open the PD circles to involve immigrants and young people and especially the local administrations governed by the PD. We have some democratic mayors who have made decisions, in my opinion, against the principles and values of the battles we are carrying out. So, we need dialogue, true involvement, and not just "to have a black person in the consultation, etc." It takes a serious involvement of people who today are no longer just witnesses, but have lived and worked there for many years. They have skills and abilities, they work in social work and mediation, they are involved in trade unions and in the economy, they are entrepreneurs. So the local administrations and the PD must now understand that they are facing a new ruling class of immigrants or new Italians who obviously wants to participate in all levels of political life within the party. But above all, he wants to make his contribution not only with regard to immigration, but all sectors of society, as happened in this assembly, from the environment to culture, to social policies, to security. These are all issues in which immigrants must participate and not just talk about their world.
Returning to the subject of citizenship, children born in Italy when they have to have it?
Meanwhile, children who are born in Italy from parents who have lived here for several years, I believe that they must have citizenship immediately after birth.
Parents how many years must they be resident?
Yes, parents must be residents. It is the only condition.
But for how many years? It is an element that makes the difference.
Even in the United States they have recently changed the law, because it is right that citizenship is a sense of participation in the country in which one was born, so parents in this case guarantee this presence. So the children of immigrants who live here permanently, I think they should immediately have Italian citizenship. Then at the age of 18 years, they will decide whether to keep it or not. For those who come here as a child, as I have already said, within the first school cycle, ie the fifth grade or eighth grade, he too must be able to obtain Italian citizenship. These are pretty basic things. Right and left can not say no to a proposal so right that takes into account the bond that a person has with the country where he lives, where he grows, but above all where his parents are investing and want to build their future.
Nowadays a lot is being abused with the slogan "citizenship must be given to those who deserve it". In essence, what could it mean?
We should, we are, and we hope to be more and more in a state of law that provides clear rules. There can be no A and B series citizens. A new Italian citizen who lives in this country, respects its rules, pays taxes honestly. These are the parameters, there are no others. Then, I do not at all agree with those who think they can somehow always foresee a second-class citizenship, or a ranking of who is the best citizen. I think both immigrants and Italians are people. Among them there are those who make mistakes and obviously there are courts and justice to judge actions that do not comply with the rules. The Italian Constitution clearly states that all people are equal before the law. I do not see why for a right as important as that of citizenship we must already foresee a different requirement in advance than those that are the same parameters in all other European countries.
And the first generations when they have to obtain citizenship?
Certainly after a reduced number of years of residence compared to those currently required. 10 years are too many and Italy is the only country that adopts this period of residence, in my opinion, too long. I think a reasonable period can be that of the six years. So after six years of residence.
Is this the PD proposal?
Within the PD this is one of the proposals we support, applying for citizenship after six years of residence. Above all, it is not so much how many years of residence you have to mature to request it, but the time you have to wait to get an answer. And then also in this case it must be given within a year, not as it happens today that from the moment in which the request is made they expect three four years, and it is at the discretion of the Ministry of the Interior. That is, the state decides without even saying the reasons why it could refuse citizenship. It takes a clear path with precise parameters such as residence, contribution, payment of taxes on a regular basis and not having committed serious crimes without providing for any other method of discretionary evaluation as is the case today.
With a residency period of six years for citizenship, does that mean that the one required to vote should be less than a few years?
Obviously the right to administrative vote, even for those who have a residence card, must be guaranteed, as in all European countries. Today, however, it is not yet guaranteed, and one of the points we have proposed and on which we must fight hard.
So what's your proposal?
After 5 years and the residence card you have the right to administrative vote for all citizens of foreign origin.
Do you need to be a holder of a residence card or have you only completed your five-year stay?
On this there is a doubt of the jurists, but we can say that with the residence card one must enjoy the right to vote at the administrative level. And this is our proposal.
Of the two slogans "I learn Italian and I am a citizen" and "you learn Italian otherwise I will punish you", which do you prefer?
We chose "I learn Italian and I am a citizen" because being a citizen goes beyond the language. We want to tell all immigrants and people who come here that they should still feel like citizens, even if they are in a country that still discriminates against them and considers them foreigners. So "I learn Italian and I am a citizen" means: I make an extra effort, I want to know the language of the country I am a citizen of. Obviously the reality is different because we live in a country where, instead, we are often discriminated against for linguistic reasons and are not considered part of this society. We want to say instead that today they are the immigrants who want and strive and therefore must be supported by the state in this path of integration. While the slogan of this government is "you learn Italian otherwise I'll punish you". And it is a bit the philosophy of the provision that provides for Italian tests and in which immigrants are expected to have to learn Italian without offering them the opportunity to take courses.
But it seems that the PD does the dirty work in the center-right. For example, the residence contract was introduced by the center-right in the 2002, but the center-left arrived in the 2006, did not even talk about it and remained in force. Now the integration agreement is being introduced, and from what I have read the President of the PD Immigration Forum, the Hon. Livia Turco, actually did not express her opposition to the agreement.
We have always maintained, and it was already foreseen in the Turkish-Neapolitan law, that in the process of integration into a society, in this case the Italian one, surely the language is an important vehicle. So much so that the Italian courses, the public courses, the various training districts with retired teachers, are initiatives born in the center-left already long ago. The problem is that this government, and this is also what was said by Livia Turco, uses a problem that actually exists and must be solved, but is again used to blame the immigrants. It is this setting that we do not share and do not like. In short, it is not a question of dirty or clean work, but the fact of a turnaround. Today there is certainly more immigration than in the past, today we need to support this Italian language course. We, obviously as an opposition party, want to correct, give alternatives to the provisions of this government. It is not always a question of having to demolish all that is said at all costs. In this case we have said that in fact the question is open, but it must never be solved in this way.
At the base of your campaign "I learn Italian because I am a citizen" there is also a bill in which one of the main points is the opportunity for the immigrant citizen to apply for a residence card after three years of stay instead of 5 currently planned, if he attends language courses and acquires an A2 level.
Yes, because we saw it as an incentive and encouragement. So not as a punishment: if you don't learn Italian, as foreseen by the integration agreement, I don't give you the points.
Is your proposal no longer obliged to sign the agreement?
Yes, yes. We believe that the Italian Constitution prohibits today discriminating against a person because he does not know the Italian language. "Without distinction of language" enshrines one of the first articles of the Constitution. So to somehow foresee discriminating against the person because he does not know Italian, we think it is unconstitutional. The state must address the problem, it must support a certain path. In addition to reducing the number of years spent applying for a residence card, our bill also provides for agreements between workers and employers to take advantage of 150 hours and study the Italian language. So it will be one more chance. You cannot ask an immigrant to learn Italian without remembering that during the day he works and it is not so easy to manage his time and his family. Furthermore, the proposal also provides for the financing of this initiative through the contributions of immigrants who are today invested in the repatriation of the so-called "irregular".
Tomorrow when the PD comes to the government, will the integration agreement be abolished?
Surely we do not agree with one thing: we cannot build a cohabitation on these bases. A state that wants to build it, cannot put everything on the assumption that the immigrant must be subjected to continuous tests because otherwise he becomes a criminal, and in any case he takes it for granted that he is looking forward to the crime. Unfortunately, this is the message that passes. We believe that in the Italian legislative landscape, in its laws, in its constitution, there is also room for the new Italians, even for immigrants and there is no need to make special laws for them. Instead, there is need for an investment in the school and in the possibility of decent work and, obviously, of a process of greater involvement as regards the link with Italy and the ever greater sharing of its history and its culture. This must be done through other instruments, and certainly not through provisions coming from the Ministry of the Interior.
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