Parliament is due to be dissolved on Thursday, paving the way for general elections which are expected to be called for March 4th.
But the ‘Italians without citizenship’ group, made up of immigrant children, and senators for the ruling centre-left Democratic Party and the Green Party have urged President Sergio Mattarella to allow parliament two more weeks to debate and pass the law.
“I urge him to do so, with the confidence that is due to a gentleman whose intellectual rectitude and social sensitivity is well known,” Democratic Party senator Luigi Manconi was quoted by Ansa as saying.
The ‘right of the soil’, or ‘Ius soli’ law, was one of the Democratic Party’s key proposals, but it has languished in the senate for months amid fierce opposition, especially from the far-right Northern League.
“Mattarella mustn't listen to the left,” said Roberto Calderoli, a senator and leading member of the Northern League.
Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and the insurgent Five Star Movement, which is leading in opinion polls, are also against the law.
Under the bill, children under the age of 12 who have spent five years in school would qualify for citizenship. The move would affect some 800,000 children born in Italy. As things currently stand, they can only apply for citizenship when they turn 18 and must have lived in the country since birth.
A vote was due to be held on Sunday, but with only 116 of the 319 senators present, it was deferred until January 9th. But unless the pleas are heard and the current legislative term is extended, the vote is unlikely to take place.