Despite Objections, France Passes Controversial Immigration Bill

The Bill backed by the Macron government after he faced a major rebellion within his own party.

Paris:

The French parliament on Tuesday passed an immigration bill backed by the government of President Emmanuel Macron after he faced a major rebellion within his own party over the support of the toughened-up legislation by the far right.

The lower house voted in favour of the legislation by a wide majority, with the ruling party in the end not needing the support of Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally (RN) to push the bill through.

Various amendments have seen the immigration measures further tightened from when the bill was originally submitted, with the left accusing the government of caving in to pressure from the far right.

Le Pen endorsed the new-look bill but key left-leaning members of Macron’s Renaissance Party and allied factions indicated they could no longer support it, with several ministers reportedly threatening to resign.

“We can rejoice in ideological progress, an ideological victory even for the National Rally (RN), since this is now enshrined into law as a national priority,” said Le Pen, a three-time presidential candidate who leads the RN’s lawmakers in parliament and is widely expected to stand again for president in 2027.

The RN had previously said it would vote against the bill or abstain. French media dubbed her surprise move a “kiss of death” for Macron’s party.

The bill had been voted down without even being debated in the National Assembly last week, in a major blow to Macron.

The upper-house Senate had earlier also passed the legislation, which then went through the lower house with 349 in favour and 186 against.

– ‘Moment of dishonour’ –

Prominent left-leaning Renaissance MP Sacha Houlie had said he would vote against the legislation and called on others to follow, with some sources saying that around 30 pro-Macron MPs would do so.

In a sign of the seriousness of the situation, Macron called a meeting of his ruling party at the Elysee palace ahead of the vote, party sources told AFP.

According to a participant at the meeting, Macron said he would submit the bill to a new reading rather than promulgate it if it were passed only with the help of the votes from Le Pen’s RN.

Health Minister Aurelien Rousseau, Higher Education Minister Sylvie Retailleau and Housing Minister Patrice Vergriete met Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne and warned they could resign, sources told AFP.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, an ambitious 41-year-old who has spearheaded the legislation, had warned Sunday that Le Pen risked winning the 2027 presidential election if the bill were not passed.

It was not immediately clear if the ministers still would resign following the adoption of the legislation. Macron was expected to give a television interview on Wednesday.

The left and hard-left had reacted with horror to the prospect of the legislation being passed, with the head of Socialist lawmakers in the National Assembly, Boris Vallaud, calling it a “great moment of dishonour for the government”.

Passing the legislation was critical for Macron, who cannot stand again in 2027 after two consecutive terms and risks being seen as a lame duck with more than three years left of his term.

The government does not have a majority in parliament since the legislative elections that followed his re-election in 2022.

– ‘Moment of truth’ –

“The political crisis around the immigration bill is a moment of truth where all the fragilities of Emmanuel Macron’s mandate are coming together,” the Le Monde daily said in an editorial.

Dozens of NGOs slammed what they described as potentially the “most regressive” immigration law in decades.

It is “the most regressive bill of the past 40 years for the rights and living conditions of foreigners, including those who have long been in France,” around 50 groups including the French Human Rights League said in a joint statement.

“With this text directly inspired by RN pamphlets against immigration, we are facing a shift in the history of the republic and its fundamental values,” French Communist Party leader Fabien Roussel said.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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