This is an important stage in the path of the French Government’s immigration bill, one of the key texts of Emmanuel Macron’s second presidential term. This Monday is the starting point of two weeks of debates in the National Assembly, before the final vote. And the day ended with a great failure for the Executive. Opposition deputies – the left wing, Gaullist right and extreme right parties – voted in favor of a motion, presented by the Ecologist Party to reject the text before it started the debate.
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The vote confirms the difficulties of the Government of Emmanuel Macron in reaching agreements in the Parliament since the loss of the absolute majority in the legislative elections of 2022. It is also a difficult blow for the main architect of text, the Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, is a strong figure in the Executive even as he will be president in 2027. Darmanin defends a bill with the aim of speeding up the procedures for examining applications for asylum and expedited deportation of aliens “considered dangerous.”
In its original version, the text also studied a provision that hoped to gain votes among the progressive forces: the simplification of the regularization of workers in irregular status in economic sectors with difficulty in looking for a job.
Presented as a “balanced text” by the minister, the most repressive measures were strengthened as they passed through the Senate, where the right is the majority. The senators removed three articles – about the flexibility of regularization of workers – and added a provision ending universal access to health care to replace it with emergency access only. However, before it reached the National Assembly, the law commission of the lower house changed the text again, eliminating or softening many provisions approved by the Senate.
The result is a project that is jointly rejected by the opposition parties: the right and the extreme right consider not too far to reduce “uncontrolled” immigration; The left considers that “this hardens the conditions more than before for those who decide to build their lives in France,” in the words of socialist representative Boris Vallaud.
“Red carpet on the far right”
As in the case of the controversial pension reform, once again the decisive vote belongs to the 62 representatives of the Republican party. The president of the party, Éric Ciotti, insisted that “the only condition for voting in favor of this text is that the Government fully admits all the points raised by the Senate and is committed to work on a constitutional reform which was approved by referendum.” .
In the gallery of the National Assembly, Gérald Darmanin reiterated this Monday his willingness to “reach” the formation and “carefully” study the changes presented in the text, as he has done in the past days . But in the end the minister’s appeals to his former party colleagues – whom he abandoned in 2017 to support Emmanuel Macron – fell on deaf ears.
The immigration bill also met with unanimous opposition from NGOs and unions. Gathered before the National Assembly during the vote on Monday, the leaders of several associations criticized a law that “rolls out the red carpet” for all “theses of the extreme right.” A text that “unites foreigners with criminals and terrorists,” according to Henry Masson, President of the association for the protection of irregular workers, La Cimade.
A few days ago Marine Le Pen, president of the far-right National Rally party (AN), expressed herself in the same terms, considering that the bill corresponds to the arguments that her party has defended for years and that “proves that he The party is now the center of gravity of political ideas in France.”
To avoid rejecting the text of the National Assembly, the party of Emmanuel Macron gave instructions to the 251 representatives of his party to attend this Monday “compulsorily” in the chamber. Unlike the motion of censure, which requires an absolute majority (ie 289 votes), the approval of the motion of rejection only requires a simple majority. In this case it was approved by 270 votes in favor, against 265 against.
The Government must now decide how to respond to this failure. The Executive has the option to return the text to the Senate for a new review, convene a specific commission to discuss the text (where the right has the majority) or withdraw the bill.
In any case, the vote has a direct consequence on the legislative path of the text. The rejection of the National Assembly before debating the text makes it impossible to resort to the approval of the law by decree, without a vote, under article 49.3 which the Government has used many times in this legislature, including the controversial pension reform law.