Pope backs proposed Italian law to better integrate migrants

Source: Associated Press


VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis threw his support behind proposed legislation aimed at better integrating migrants into Italian society and the workforce, intervening Wednesday in a broader debate over immigration and citizenship that has consumed national politics in recent weeks.

Francis noted during his general audience that he had met with refugees this week as the U.N. marked world refugee day. The pope, who has prioritized the plight of refugees in his four-year papacy, said he wanted to voice his appreciation for a campaign backed by Italy’s Radical Party to overhaul the country’s restrictive migration policy and regularize those who are here illegally.

Francis stopped short, however, of backing a separate and divisive government-backed proposal to grant citizenship to children of migrants born or educated here. Currently, these children can apply for citizenship only in their 18th year — a restriction that critics say hampers their full integration into Italian society.

The anti-immigrant Northern League and a smaller, right-wing party have opposed the proposed legislation, which cleared the lower Chamber of Deputies in 2015 but remains stuck in the Senate, where the League has proposed thousands of amendments.

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