The immigration bill that was approved by the French parliament on Tuesday triggered a political storm for President Emmanuel Macron, who faced criticism from both the left and the right for his stance on immigration.
The bill, which was drafted by Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, received support from Macron’s centrist coalition and conservative lawmakers, as well as some abstentions from the far-right National Rally (RN), led by Marine Le Pen.
The RN, which is Macron’s main challenger for the 2024 presidential election, said that the bill was a “great ideological victory” for the far right, but also a “huge practical defeat” for the French people.
The bill also provoked a rebellion within Macron’s party, with several left-wing ministers opposing the bill and one of them, Health Minister Aurelien Rousseau, reportedly offering his resignation to Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne over the legislation. It is unclear whether Borne accepted it or not.
Main arguments for and against the new immigration law
The bill, which aims to implement some of the recommendations of a report commissioned by Macron in 2019, introduces several changes to France’s immigration policy, such as:
- Delaying access to state subsidies for non-EU migrants, such as housing aid or family allowances, until they have lived in France for several months or even years.
- Introducing migration quotas for certain professions that face labour shortages, and making it easier for migrants who work in those sectors to get a residency permit.
- Making it harder for immigrants’ children to acquire French citizenship, by requiring them to prove that they have lived in France for at least five years before turning 18, instead of being automatically eligible if they were born in France.
- Simplifying and speeding up the procedures for expelling illegal migrants, and increasing the maximum detention period for those awaiting deportation from 90 days to 135 days.
The bill was met with fierce opposition from the left, who accused Macron of betraying his promise to protect France from the far right and of violating the principles of equality and nondiscrimination.
They also argued that the bill would make the integration of foreigners harder and that it would undermine France’s universalist social model.
The bill was also criticized by the far right, who claimed that the bill was too lenient and that it did not address the root causes of immigration, such as the security situation in the countries of origin and the attraction of France’s generous welfare system.
They also rejected some of the measures in the bill that they considered too soft, such as a ban on putting minors in detention centers for illegal immigrants.
The government defended the bill as a balanced and humanist reform that would help France control its borders and integrate migrants who respect the country’s values.
They also argued that the bill was necessary to keep the French safe, for instance by making it easier to deport foreigners who are convicted of crimes, and that it responded to the demands of the majority of the French people, who support stricter immigration rules according to recent polls.
The government also said that the bill was passed in a democratic way, without resorting to a constitutional tool that would have allowed it to bypass the vote in the lower house, as it did for the pension overhaul.
The government also secured the support of the conservative Republicans party, which has 62 lawmakers in the lower house.
The Republicans, who are also close to the far right on immigration, pushed to make the bill stricter, for instance by making temporary residency permits for workers in fields with labor shortages a rare exception, not an automatic right.
“We have been fighting for this for months, I’d even say years,” Éric Ciotti, the head of the Republicans, told reporters on Tuesday.