The French government’s immigration law has successfully passed its first legislative stage after being approved by the Senate.
Initial draft of the law has undergone significant changes during the past week’s debate, particularly to appease the conservative right-wing party, Les Républicains, who argued that it was too lenient.
With 210 votes in favor and 115 against from the left, the Senate has hardened the law, deviating significantly from its original form.
Aims and Controversies
The primary objective of the law was to enhance immigration control while improving the integration of foreign nationals already residing in France. However, as the law progressed, it became clear that the focus shifted more towards immigration control rather than integration.
This law has faced criticism regarding various aspects, including regularization of undocumented immigrants, expulsion measures for criminal offenses, asylum applications, family reunification, and healthcare provisions for undocumented immigrants.
Regularization of Undocumented Immigrants
One of the few measures aimed at regularization was to provide a pathway for undocumented immigrants working in sectors facing labor shortages, such as hospitality and construction. However, this provision has now been significantly watered down.
Each case will be individually assessed by prefects, considering the applicant’s integration into society.
Expulsion Measures for Criminal Offenses
The law introduces measures to facilitate the expulsion of foreign nationals who commit crimes. Previously, individuals who arrived in France before the age of 13 were protected from deportation. However, with the new law, if they commit any criminal offense, deportation becomes a possibility.
The Minister of Interior, Gérald Darmanin, estimates that this could lead to the expulsion of approximately 4,000 foreign criminals each year.
Challenges in Asylum Applications and Family Reunification
The law also complicates the process of seeking asylum and family reunification. Children born in France to foreign parents will no longer automatically acquire French nationality upon reaching adulthood.
Changes in Healthcare Provisions
One of the most controversial measures is the elimination of state medical aid for undocumented immigrants. Instead, there will be limited emergency medical assistance available, primarily reserved for severe illnesses, vaccinations, and basic care for pregnant women.
The removal of this aid was a demand from the right-wing and far-right parties, who argued that the state incurred significant costs in providing healthcare to undocumented immigrants.
Objectives and Reactions
The main objective of the law is to discourage immigration to French territory while facilitating the expulsion of individuals deemed a threat to the Republic.
Despite the substantial changes made to the original text, the Minister of Interior expressed his satisfaction with the amended version, stating that it is now ready for debate in the National Assembly. He summarized the law as being firm against foreign criminals while providing support for integration.
The fate of the law lies in the hands of the National Assembly, where debates are set to commence in December. The left-wing faction within the presidential majority has threatened to restore the law’s initial spirit and rewrite it, but they are unlikely to receive support from Les Républicains or the left, who view the law as overly restrictive.
Approval of the French immigration law by the Senate marks a significant step in the legislative process. The law has undergone substantial changes to address concerns from the conservative right-wing party.
While the initial focus on integration has been overshadowed by stricter immigration control measures, the law still aims to strike a balance between firmness against foreign criminals and support for integration.
The upcoming debates in the National Assembly will determine the final form of the law and its impact on immigration policies in France.