Wednesday, May 17, 2006

France, the US and Immigration.

One commonality between France and the US these days is their with immigration. Both governments are at a loss and both countries are polarized.

On Monday President Bush announced he would send National Guards to the US-Mexican border (mostly in order to appease the Congressional conservatives who want to toughen the law against illegal immigration and sell his temporary guest-worker program).

Now today the French parliament passed a new immigration law aimed at selecting immigrants and making it difficult for immigrants already in France to have their families join them. This is a dramatic change for this country - for the first time it puts France on the list of countries with selective immigration. The idea is to create a "skills and talents permit" for foreigners with qualifications which are judged to be important for the French economy and labor market. (see the article in Le Monde here).

The bill has been harshly attacked by human-rights groups, labor unions, leftist politicians, and Muslim and Christian church leaders in France while in the US, pro-immigration activists from across the country representing union members, citizens and others have rallied in DC.

As many other European countries and the US, France is closing its borders and this is is only the last measure in a series of laws. In the last few years the number of deportations and the number of people who were refused asylum have risen. In 2006, the government is planning to make 26,000 repatriations.

In the US, even though rounding up more illegal “aliens” and deporting them has been mentioned by some conservatives, it seems pretty unrealistic to think you can send back an estimate of 10 million people and prevent them from crossing a border of 1,951 miles (3,141 km). Besides, there may be other practical reasons:

Rep. Linda Sanchez, a California Democrat, jokes that Republicans had enough trouble moving 250,000 New Orleanians who wanted to be evacuated. "And we knew where they were," she gibes. (Time)

Personally, I find it hard to make up my mind on the issue of immigration - whether in the US or in France. Of course, I tend to lean towards a more liberal approach and I definitely dismiss the 'national security' reason. Fear should certainly not be a good reason to pass such laws. At the same time, I tend to support a rather pragmatic approach and I know how hard it is to find a balance between idealism and reality.
What is clear though is that there are ulterior motives for passing laws now. Both in France and in the US, the elections next year can explain why the issue has gained so much momentum
lately. Yes indeed, we do share a lot of the same bad stuff.

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