This Thursday, January 25, the Constitutional Council of France announced their determinations on the immigration law adopted under pressure from the right. The text has created a divide in the French nation, with many protests denouncing the law. The ‘Wise Men’, as the members of said court were known, censored many parts of the project because they considered it unconstitutional.
A long-awaited decision took place on Thursday, January 25, in France. The Constitutional Council has largely struck down the government’s immigration law, which has eliminated many of the rights-promoting measures.
The ‘Wise Men’ censored more than a third of the articles; 32 were considered to have insufficient links to the text, including tightening access to social benefits, family reunification, or the establishment of a “deposit refund” for foreign students.
The law was criticized by sectors of the left side of the country, who took to the streets at the end of the week to show their dissatisfaction with the law that they classified as “extremely right.”
The government’s immigration bill was approved on December 19, 2023, by the National Assembly thanks to the votes of the far-right National Group, which joined the representatives of the right-wing Republicans and representatives of the majority of the president.
However, Marine Le Pen, deputy for the National Rally Party, is critical of the Immigration Law of the Government of Emmanuel Macron, considering that “it is an amateur because it does not know that many of its articles are against the constitution.” Therefore, he assured me, a decision like this Thursday by the Constitutional Council is imminent.
Political effects of the decision of the Constitutional Council
Although the Constitutional Council completely or partially repealed 35 articles of the bill, it validated other articles, such as 46, which stipulates that foreigners applying for a residence permit must “respect the principles of the Republic.”. A validation that includes the discourse of the most nationalist sectors that demand that “migrants, regardless of their ethnic, cultural, and religious origins, submit to secularism and French values.”
Thus, the ‘Smart People’ decision has divided opinions across the political spectrum. On the one hand, the executive expects partial unconstitutionality. “Some measures are clearly against the Constitution,” Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin admitted before the National Assembly on December 19.
In a press conference on January 16, President Emmanuel Macron also did not rule out the possibility that the text was “changed” by the Constitutional Council.
However, Macron claimed a victory for the initial project presented by his government before the Senate restricted the censored articles. For the president, the decision of the Constitutional Council “confirms almost in their entirety the measures presented by the government” and asks the Minister of the Interior “to do everything possible so that the law is applied as soon as possible.”
On the other hand, on the left side of the opposition, there is some satisfaction with the decision of the Council, while the right and the extreme right consider that his decision shows the need for constitutional reform and a referendum on immigration. This last proposal was particularly defended by Jordan Bardella, president of the National Rally, who requested that the French go to the polls to decide on the immigration law. In addition, he criticized the validity of the other 51 articles of the Council and described it as a “coup d’état of the judges, with the support of the president.”
France, one of the countries with the largest migrant population in the European Union
According to the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies, in “2022, 7.0 million immigrants will live in France, representing 10.3% of the total population.” Of which, “2.5 million immigrants, that is, 35%, acquired French nationality.”
Measurements from 2022 show that almost half (48.2%) of immigrants living in France are of African origin, and 32.3% are of European origin. The main countries of origin of immigrants are Algeria, Morocco, Portugal, Tunisia, Italy, Spain, and Turkey.
In the case of people from Algeria and Morocco, the assimilation of some French people has been complicated by racism and Islamophobia. Cases of police abuse against young people of North African origin in marginalized neighborhoods in large French cities are an example of this. Also, there is an increasing amount of radicalized discourse on the extreme right that talks about theories like the great social replacement, defended in the last presidential elections by the former candidate Éric Zemmour.