Thursday, May 17, 2007

Italian Emigration and Immigration

A lot can change from in 3 years...

N. Italy in 1796:

N. Italy in 1799:

That was just at the time when the US congress passed the Alien and Sedition Act of 1798. It says says anyone "opposing or resisting any law of the United States, or any act of the President of the United States" could be imprisoned for up to two years. This gave rather unreasonable powers over immigrants to the US.

From the late 1800s to the early 1900s, Italians were emigrating in droves when starvation and disease drove Italians to America. 25 million emigrated from a nation left with only 32 million.

Up until WWII, the nation still saw mass emigration in the 1930s of 300,000 per year. During WWII, Italians had been interned in the US like the Japanese and Germans.

Boundary changes have produced refugees since ancient times. And now strife in Africa, the former Yugoslavia, and the fall of the Soviet Union have caused mass refugees fleeing their country. Italy is a gateway for entrance to Western Europe. It has the largest coastline sitting in the middle of the Mediterranean.

Currently, the birth rate is smaller than the death rate (8.5% and 10.5% respectively). This sort of emigration is slowly eating at the Italian population. The only rises in population are now due to immigration of which standards have just been eased.

Berlusconi is now accusing the new immigrants of raising crime within Italy. A recent poll said 43 percent of Italians see immigrants as a threat to public security, up from 39 percent in mid-2005.

Leftists may argue that Immigration may be a vital part in sustaining growth for the nation with a still stagnant economy. This source of cheap labor could be used to maintain Italians lifestyles.

Yet, Italians are getting progressively more concerned about these immigrants. It is hard to not remember their history of being immigrants themselves, however Italy's Italians are composed of those that have never emigrated.

The immigration issue is still unresolved even after recent legislation, and now is being used as a political tool for Berlusconi to try to regain power. It will be interesting to see how it resolves, however it may take longer than anyone may anticipate.


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