France: Far right claims controversial new immigration law as an “ideological victory” 

On Tuesday 19th December, just over a week after an earlier version of the law was thrown out before it even reached the debate stage, the French parliament has voted in favour of a controversial new immigration law. 

Following the previous version’s defeat on Monday 11th December, a group of MPs and senators were brought together to rehash the bill, which had been deemed too tough for the left and too weak for the right. 

“The most regressive bill of the past 40 years” 

This revised edition, now made law, includes several “hardline” measures that had not appeared in the first version. Their inclusion has sparked heavy criticism from those on the left, but the far right has claimed the new law as an “ideological victory”, something French President Emmanuel Macron has been keen to deny.  

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

The text covers a range of topics, from migrant quotas and provisions to strip dual-nationality criminals of their French nationality to the “conditioning” of certain social security benefits to foreigners who have lived in France for more than five years or 30 months for those in work. The law makes a clear distinction between foreigners who are “in a situation of employment” and those who are not. 

Another contentious aspect of the law is the restriction of jus soli or the right to obtain French citizenship for those born in France to foreign partners. These people will no longer be automatically granted French nationality upon reaching the age of majority and will instead have to apply between the ages of 16 and 18. Additionally, those who are convicted of a crime will not be allowed to obtain French citizenship. 

Family reunification will also be made considerably more difficult by the law, and applicants will now be required to prove they have “stable, regular and sufficient” financial resources.  

Those on the left have described it as “the most regressive bill of the past 40 years for the rights and living conditions of foreigners, including those who have long been in France”, while a prominent Socialist, Boris Vallaud, has said that its passing is “great moment of dishonor for the government”. 

On the right, meanwhile, the law has been largely welcomed.  

“The fruit of compromise” 

Speaking to the presenters of France 5 on Wednesday 20th December from the Palais de L’Élysée, Macron said, “Fighting illegal immigration is not just a subject just for the [political] right. If you live in a working-class area affected by this you are for this law.” 

Nevertheless, the French president did acknowledge the contentious nature of the new law, saying, “This text is the fruit of compromise… Do I jump for joy at it? No. There are things in it I don’t like… The question for the government was, ‘Do we block it because we don’t like parts of it?’ No. When you govern, you have to make difficult choices.” 

It would, however, appear that the inclusions are a step too far for some, and Health Minister Aurélien Rousseau has already resigned over the new law.  

“It’s not possible for me to defend this text,” he is quoted as saying in Le Monde.  

Higher Education Minister Sylvie Retailleau and Housing Minister Patrice Vergriete have also reportedly threatened their resignations.  

In the interview with France 5, Macron sought to make clear that the law was part of the promise he had made to the electorate, saying, “The country was waiting for this law.” 

Macron concluded by saying, “We are a country that has always welcomed people and we will continue to do so, but we have to combat the flow of illegal immigration, and our processes are too long and complicated to do so, and that’s a loss of control. Our first objective is combating illegal immigration and the second is to encourage better integration through language and work. Those are the two objectives provided in the text.” 


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Photo source: Stefan K, Unsplash