France: Contentious immigration bill shot down in the National Assembly by the left and right

A bill containing nearly 30 potential reforms to France’s immigration policy went down in flames in the National Assembly before it had even been debated. A successful motion to completely reject the bill came from an unlikely grouping of politicians on the left and right, leading Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin to offer his resignation over the “failure”. 

In a dramatic turn of events on Monday 11th December, parties including the Europe Écologie Les Verts, those belonging to the leftist Nouvelle Union Populaire Écologique et Sociale alliance, Marine Le Pen’s far right Rassemblement National and the moderate conservative Les Républicains came together to pass a successful motion to throw out the contentious Bill to Control Immigration [and] Improve Integration (projet de loi pour contrôler l’immigration, améliorer l’intégration in French) before it could even reach the debate stage.  

Darmanin has been quoted in the French media as calling the act “a denial of democracy” and ultimately offered his resignation to French President Emmanuel Macron over his humiliation. 

“It is a failure, obviously,” Darmanin told TF1 television. “I want to give the police, the gendarmes, the prefects, and the magistrates the means to fight against irregular immigration.” 

Too tough for the left, too weak for the right 

The bill was proposed by Macron’s centrist government in the hopes it would have an adequate mix of changes to satisfy both ends of the political spectrum.

While on one hand it proposed streamlining asylum procedures, including tackling the delays involved in the appeal process, on the other, it would have made the reunification of families more difficult and made deportations easier.  

The bill also took aim at undocumented workers and sought to insist on applicants of a multi-year carte de séjour sitting an exam on French culture and history as well as mastering the basics of the French language before being given the right to live and work in France. 

The argument on the left was that the bill was too tough – Olivier Faure, the leader of France’s Parti Socialiste, is cited in the media as saying, “Foreigners should not be viewed as suspects” – while the right felt like it didn’t go far enough.   

The level of discomfort with the bill’s contents was made clear by the fact that there were already an estimated 2,600 amendments put forwards before the vote to dismiss had even taken place.  

Now what? 

Despite the rejection of the bill, it could still have life in it and it is likely that the text will be sent to the Senate, where it could be revisited and amended to make it more palatable.  

According to a source quoted by France 24, Macron has asked Darmanin “to submit proposals to move forward by overcoming this blockage and obtaining an effective law”.  

However, an outcome seemingly just as likely is that it could be thrown out altogether, meaning that any new immigration policies would need to be started from scratch.   

Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne could also use the controversial 49:3 constitutional tool to push the reforms through without a vote.  


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Photo source: Assemblée Nationale, Facebook