The recent victory of the Italian right wing has brought a new wave of anti-immigration rhetoric, enforcement, and legislation. It has also brought anti-immigrant violence.
This poster of the right wing Northern League coalition of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi warns: “They underwent immigration, and now they live on the reservations.” The point of the poster is to suggest that if Italians continue to allow foreign immigrants into the country, the native Italians will soon find themselves in a minority, subject to the arbitrary rule of those foreigners.
This image is from the slide show accompanying an article in today’s New York Times: Michael Kimmelman, “Italy Gives Cultural Diversity a Lukewarm Embrace,” New York Times, 25 June 2008.
in today’s La Repubblica
reports that while 5% of the Italian population is foreign born, 10% of babies born in Italy in 2007 were born to foreign parents. The number of babies born to Italian women has been falling in recent decades — so much so that the Italian birthrate has been too low to maintain the population. Women are marrying later and having fewer children.
The CIA World Factbook reports that the estimated population growth rate for Italy in 2008 is negative: – 0.019% (2008 est.)
Many industrialized nations are facing this sort of situation, which results in a variety of economic and political strains on societies worried about their identity and their prosperity. Prosperity, as advanced societies are currently structured, seems to require a continuing immigration, but that in turn creates the perception among the working classes that immigrants are driving down wages, taking jobs from native workers, and threatening the culture. In all these countries, anxieties about heritage and identity produce nativist, anti-immigrant rhetoric and bring forth opportunistic political leaders to take advantage of the fear of change.
Tom Benson – Penn State University