French President Emmanuel Macron (Photo by Alessandra Benedetti - Corbis/Getty Images)


Macron under pressure from both Left and Right on immigration bill


French President Emmanuel Macron’s government is coming under fire from both the Left and Right over its new immigration reform bill.

The Right is intent on fighting the bill because it is not hard enough on migration, the Left because it is too tough.

Centre-right Republicans (LR) senator Bruno Retailleau warned: “If there is no real shift in immigration policy, we will have to draw all the political consequences.”

La France Insoumise, France’s hard-left troublemakers, had previously declared they would “resolutely and determinedly oppose this … stigmatising and brutal text”, which has already been denounced by human rights associations.

The left-wing of Macron’s centrist coalition has been working with the hard-left opposition to ensure the bill is more accommodating to France’s migrant population, bringing the danger closer to home for Macron.

As a result, the governing centrist-liberal coalition finds itself without majority backing, a year after announcing the project to overhaul France’s immigration system.

Some already speculate that the government may force the bill through without parliamentary approval, using the controversial Article 49.3 of the Constitution. That could put the government at risk of a no-confidence vote.

Many in the governing coalition, consisting mainly of Macron’s Renaissance party, support the bill on condition that it gives a more regular status to illegal migrants in high-demand jobs, allowing such undocumented immigrant workers to be able to apply to stay in France.

On the other hand, such a move costs the coalition the support of the French Right.

The right-wing camp, led by LR, has been relentless in urging Macron to take a harder line on immigration. Their primary demand is the abandonment of plans to regularise undocumented workers in occupations facing labour shortages.

The Left is championing a more compassionate approach towards immigrants. Their members argue for leniency, citing the tragic death of Nahel during a police check earlier in 2023 as a stark reminder of the stakes involved.

The Left draws heavily on immigrant and immigrant-descended communities for votes.

LR and its right-wing allies say they are not satisfied with “mere” procedural alterations in immigration policy. Their dissatisfaction could culminate in a no-confidence vote against Macron’s government if substantive changes are not implemented.

The hard-right National Rally party, led by Marine Le Pen, has been demanding that France hold a national referendum on  migration.

The bill is unlikely to return to the senate before the end of October, potentially going to the National Assembly early next year.

“I think we have a good text. It can be enriched by proposals from the Republicans and others,” Macron said.