France Formalizes Controversial Immigration Reform Amid Pushback

France Formalizes Controversial Immigration Reform Amid Pushback

The administration of French President Emmanuel Macron has formalized its new immigration law despite opposition from both sides of the political spectrum.

On January 27th, the formal text of the legislation was published in France’s Official Journal.

Instructions on implementing aspects of the law have already been given to officials, though Macron administration critics remain vocal.

Law Formalized, Implementation Underway

The Constitutional Council recently censured 35 of the law’s 86 articles, tossing out additions insisted on by conservatives like immigration quotas and limiting social benefits.

An article was also retained on regularizing undocumented workers in industries with labor shortages.

Interior Minister Gérard Darmanin has been tasked with enforcing the law quickly, though he previously voiced doubts on constitutionality.

After the council’s ruling, he now deems it a government success.

National Rally President Jordan Bardella blasted the decision as a “coup” backed by Macron, demanding a referendum on immigration instead.

Republican leader Eric Ciotti also accused the council of colluding against public opinion favoring less immigration.

While articles were mainly removed for being unrelated to the law’s scope, nothing prevents parliament from reintroducing them in separate bills.

French Senate head Gérard Larcher pressed for resubmitting an agreement made with conservatives.

Critics on the left, like LFI party chief Manuel Bompard, insisted on fully repealing the law for having “no legitimacy.” However, Darmanin has firmly refused.

What Does France’s New Immigration Law Change?

The legislation focuses heavily on expediting the deportation process for foreigners who commit crimes.

Police will gain expanded powers of surveillance and search in deportation cases.

The law also creates a “national file” of wanted foreigners that authorities can consult.

Residence permit delivery will be contingent on attending mandatory civic and language classes.

In industries designated as having shortages, like construction and hospitality, undocumented migrants who have worked for at least eight months can obtain a one-year residency.

French Public Split as Legislative Debate Continues

During parliamentary debate, Macron’s centrist coalition was itself divided on the law.

About one in four voted against it or abstained, including the head of Macron’s party.

The French public is also conflicted.

An IFOP poll showed that 50% support the regularization of undocumented workers, but over 60% back limiting social services for asylum seekers.

As conservatives push for even stricter measures, left-wing politicians argue that this signals a worrying shift toward xenophobia.

However, sides appear committed to ensuring the issue features prominently in upcoming legislative elections.

EU Countries Tighten Borders Amid Record Arrivals

France received over 137,000 first-time asylum applications in 2022, the highest number since World War II.

The influx follows crackdowns on migration routes through Libya and across the English Channel.

With frontline EU states overwhelmed, initiatives are underway to redistribute arrivals more evenly. However, resistance from central European members like Hungary has hampered progress so far.

There are also plans to introduce a fast-track deportation process and require visas for nationals of certain countries under a proposed ETIAS system.

What Will be the Impact of France’s Immigration Reform?

Simplifying deportations for offenders may alleviate pressures on the asylum system somewhat.

Regularizing undocumented workers could likewise help fill empty positions in struggling sectors.

However, for conservatives, the Constitutional Council removing more restrictive measures represents an opportunity missed to deliver meaningful change.

As Macron pursues the stated goal of 50% deportation for rejected asylum seekers, immigrant advocates argue this will normalize excessive use of detention. There are worries of overreach in police surveillance powers too.

With neither side appeased by compromises made, immigration looks to remain a lightning rod issue for French politics in the years ahead.