Along with a number of other countries, particularly those in southern Europe, Italy has only been a receiving country for international immigration for about 25 years. Italy itself has a long tradition of emigration and it is estimated that there are currently about 60 million Italian emigrants all over the world. In Italian Law, the concept of "immigrant" first appeared as recently as 1986. Previously there was only the general juridical type of the "foreigner", whose residence within the national boundaries was governed by public security law. In the Italian public discourse, up to the end of the 1980s, "immigrants" were internal migrants from less developed southern regions ("Mezzogiorno") who moved towards the more dynamic areas of Northern Italy, a huge phenomenon throughout the twentieth century, and particularly intense in the "golden period" of the industrial development (from the 1950s and the first half of the 1970s): initially migration was mainly towards the so called "industrial triangle" (Milan-Turin-Genoa), afterwards it was also towards the central and north-eastern regions, characterized by the growth of small companies and industrial districts. Based on a historical analysis, we know that today’s aversions and oppositions towards foreign immigrants were directed to migrants from the south of Italy in the past. However, in those times immigration was not a central issue in the political debate, essentially because the internal migrants were citizens and voters and they might be employed as civil servants. The phenomenon of international migration has therefore developed in a national context characterized by certain aspects that should be taken into account throughout the analysis.