The untenable double French discourse on immigration

There is today a real French double discourse on immigration, even a form of unacknowledged schizophrenia against the backdrop of a reality that is beginning to make noise: France and its economy need foreign labor and therefore of immigrants.

Whatever the controversies that accompany the new immigration law that the Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, intends to propose to parliament for a vote in the coming weeks, a single idea slips between the lines, works the minds and fuels the debates. .

By proposing a massive regularization which does not mean its name to illegal immigrants who work in key sectors of the French economy, the government officially recognizes that this economy still needs foreign labor to continue to function, unlike the generally accepted idea that the French labor market is under tension and cannot absorb any type of foreign labour.

It is true that the government’s communication limits this regularization offer to so-called stressed sectors such as construction and catering, but other sectors that are no less vital, if not more so, such as hospitals and the health sector in general, largely depend on this foreign workforce, as the Covid 19 pandemic has brought to light.

What do the details matter in this debate, the main thing is that it installs, figures and official confessions in support, a new perception, even a new reality of immigration in France. Ironically, it contradicts openly and head-on the general debate on immigration in France and which has shaped French political life for years, ensuring the continued rise of the far right which has seen its icon, Marine Le Pen, to reach the second round of the presidential election two elections in a row and saw a man with radical ideas and pyromaniacs, like Éric Zemmour, gain enormous success in esteem.

The Frenchman from the countryside, like the Frenchman from the city, has been bludgeoned for years that the immigrant is a danger to his economic and social security. If France is experiencing such an acute and existential crisis, it would be, according to this logic, the fault of these immigrants who literally come to take the bread and work of the French.

Hammered by such false analyses, some French people began to say aloud that their salvation would only come through a massive expulsion of these immigrants. Hence the media success achieved by the trivialization of the theory of the great replacement by the former journalist who became a presidential candidate, Éric Zemmour.

What the government is doing today through Gérald Darmanin’s proposals is equivalent to throwing freezing water on flaming embers. The minister and behind him the government of Elisabeth Borne and Emmanuel Macron, do not do it out of political expediency. But the realities of the market and the sociology of the world of work impose realities which can prove to be contradictory with the speeches and the political atmospheres.

One of the realities that helps the government to shake the coconut tree is the observation made by the national employment agency of the existence of hundreds of thousands of job offers, impossible to fill by millions of French people registered on the list unemployed people.

This government awareness that the French economy has a vital need for foreign labor has been accentuated by the Covid pandemic, which has had a revealing effect on the flaws and needs of the French labor market. Its needs go far beyond seasonal sectors, such as agriculture, to affect much more structuring sectors and on which the revival of the French economy depends.

Once this admission has been validated by the media, it remains to be seen what political consequences there will be for the speeches of personalities and political forces who have built their credibility on a form of institutional xenophobia which makes immigrants the source of all ills while the government recognizes it as a key and essential element in the revival, even the very survival of certain sectors of the French economy.

The right-wing opposition has already been indignant to see Emmanuel Macron attempt a double challenge in his strategy of conviction: That of being able to establish a structural link between delinquency and immigration and that of opening the doors to a massive regularization on the model that had practiced the former socialist president, François Mitterrand, in the early 80s of the last century.

This reaction bodes well for a fiery debate in parliament when this bill comes up for discussion and vote. There are certainties that Marine Le Pen’s national rally will vote against it, and there is a good chance that the Republicans will block it to avoid what they call the call for air that it installs with all the candidates for the immigration.

As for the left alliance, its proposed amendments are such that it will be impossible for it to vote for Gérald Darmanin’s text in its raw version. So here is a new deadlock awaiting the government at the Palais Bourbon where its absolute majority is only a distant memory. But there still remains the sledgehammer argument of 49.3, effective on the institutional level but inelegant on the political level.

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