Forza Italia!

Italy’s lower chamber of parliament has passed a hotly debated measure making it a crime to enter or stay in Italy illegally as Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s conservative forces continue cracking down on illegal migration.

In a bid to ensure swift passage, Berlusconi’s allies put the legislation to a confidence vote, which they easily won 316-258. Confidence votes force lawmakers to close ranks since defeat would force the government’s resignation.

The legislation must now be approved by the senate. It would make it a crime to enter or stay in Italy illegally, punishable by a fine of $6,840-$13,670, although no prison penalty would be imposed. In addition, the legislation imposes a prison term of up to three years for anyone who rents an apartment to an illegal immigrant.