This bill, “will modify a number of articles of our Constitution in order to integrate the migration issue into our supreme text but also to prevent supranational jurisdictions from forcing France to follow policies contrary to the will of the French people,” according to Le Pen’s manifesto.
If Le Pen gets in and if the law is passed, an estimated 3.5 million people in France suddenly would not have the same rights here as ‘French nationals’.
This includes people who have lived in France for decades and people who have become French citizens.
The plan for “national priority” sets up legal discrimination between French nationals and foreigners for jobs in the private sector, civil service, as well as access to social housing, healthcare and social benefits.
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Le Pen, a lawyer by profession, knows that the bill she proposes violates the French constitution, European conventions and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1789.
That’s why she wants to put it to a referendum, which bypasses parliament and sidesteps the scrutiny of the Conseil Constitutionnel – France’s highest court on all matters related to the constitution, which would be highly likely to say that the move is unconstitutional.
Article one of the proposed bill – available here (pdf) – contains the following text: “The access of foreigners to any public or private employment, to the exercise of certain professions, economic or associative activities, professional or trade union representation functions, as well as to the benefit of solidarity benefits, is determined by law.
“The law sets the conditions and areas in which national priority may be applied, understood as the priority granted to nationals.”
Under article six: “The law may prohibit access to jobs in government agencies, public companies and legal entities, public enterprises and legal persons entrusted with a public service mission to persons who possess the nationality of another State.”
Le Pen’s immigration law would remove the right of foreign-born residents of France to work for – among others – La Poste, EDF, SNCF, businesses in social and health sectors and would also allow for “criminal or administrative sanctions to punish the actions of any person or legal entity who disregards the rules governing the entry, stay or work of foreigners in France, including through any assistance.”
As well as blocking access to certain professions, the bill – if passed – would deprive foreigners in France of family allowances and other benefits, deny them access to trade unions, make gaining French citizenship more difficult, do away with the droit du sol rule (which gives the right to citizenship of people born in France) and prevent many families from reuniting in France.
It would also make access to healthcare more difficult.
Foreign nationals who want to settle in France under a Le Pen regime, they will have to prove that they are “holders of an insurance contract covering their health expenses” because, warns the RN candidate, “they cannot constitute a cost for the social protection system and for public finances”.
It’s not clear how long foreigners would be required to have private health insurance for and when/if they would be allowed to register within the French health system.
Le Pen’s chief of staff Renaud Labaye has insisted that, as a constitutional text, it was necessary to keep definitions as broad as possible to allow legal implements to then “restrict the scope of prohibitions”, including those who hold dual nationality.
At present certain jobs – including senior civil servant roles – are restricted to French nationals while some public sector roles are restricted to EU citizens.
You can run for office on a local level – say town councillor or village mayor – if you are an EU citizen, but to run to become an MP, Senator or the president you must be French.
Crucially, however, there is no distinction between people who were born French and those who acquired French nationality later in life through family, marriage or residency – there have been two French presidential candidates (Eva Joly in 2012 and Anne Hidalgo in 2022) who were not French citizens from birth.
In her 2012 and 2017 election campaigns, Le Pen proposed banning dual nationality, meaning that people could only become French citizens if they renounce the citizenship of their birth country. However in 2022 she has ditched that policy, to the reported surprise of many in her party.
French citizenship rules are relatively generous, allowing citizenship after five years of residence – albeit with a ton of paperwork, a French language qualification and an average 18-month waiting time.
France granted citizenship to 86,000 people in 2020, and since the Brexit referendum many British long-term residents of France have taken French citizenship in order to hold onto their EU rights.
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For a nation that fought so hard against the Apartheid regime and policies in South Africa, it is surprising that they seem to have taken so much from that rule book to apply in their own nation…I will be surprised (but not terribly so) if this comes to pass…