With Backing From Marine Le Pen, Rigorous New French Immigration Bill Passes

The new bill dramatically curtails migrants’ access to citizenship, rights to social benefits, and family reunification procedures.

AP/Michel Euler
The French right-wing leader, Marine Le Pen, listens as French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin delivers a speech at the French National Assembly at Paris. AP/Michel Euler

Marine Le Pen’s support for President Macron’s tough immigration bill on Tuesday is a moment to mark in Europe’s political pivot to the right this year, and this one comes just months ahead of already hotly anticipated elections for the European parliament.

The new immigration bill is more robust than the government’s initial text. It  dramatically curtails migrants’ access to citizenship, rights to social benefits, and family reunification procedures. It is the kind of measure that would be on Governor Abbott’s Christmas wish list from President Biden.

In France, lawmakers from the conservative Les Républicains and more right-leaning National Rally — that is Ms. Le Pen’s party — weighed in on the content of the text. There seems little doubt that the votes and voice of the rightist party was instrumental in getting the bill to pass.

That led to one of the most dramatic French political upsets since the 1990s. For a large number of Mr. Macron’s own parliamentary members voted against the measure that Mr. Macron and Mme. Le Pen worked together, if separately, to pass. The moment would have been unthinkable only a few years ago. 

Marine Le Pen, moreover, declared the legislation as marking an “ideological victory,” while Républicain whip Olivier Marleix told journalists that “98 percent” of the final text reflected conservative views. That, also too, would have been hard to imagine but a few years ago.

Not everyone was pleased with the latest news from Paris. To left-leaning parties the ad hoc, bill-specific coalition has put at risk the guardrail, or cordon sanitaire — the shared understanding among mainstream parties’  that the right wing should be kept at bay from policy-making.

“Macron has broken the dam against the far right,” the co-chairman of the European Green Party, Mélanie Vogel,  a French senator, said in a statement on Wednesday. She added that the “This text will implement measures that the far-right has been advocating for decades.”

Mr. Macron’s immigration law “marks a political and moral rupture,” Le Monde reckons. While that rupture appears to be what the French public wants, the nouveau reality is still lost on many voices on the left. Another leftist lawmaker, Manon Aubry, took to X to accuse President Macron of “selling [his] soul to the devil.”

A spokesperson for the Renew Group, Mr. Macron’s political camarilla at the EU level, argued that the extreme right would still be kept in check because “there were no negotiations nor agreement with the far right,” adding that “Le Pen’s decision to vote the text was a purely political tactic.” Political alliances between main political parties and their far-right opponents are hardly new.

In late September 2022, Italy’s Giorgia Meloni took power via a conservative and far-right coalition. In June 2023, the Spanish conservatives and their far-right counterparts, Vox, then struck governing deals in several municipalities and regions, ahead of legislative elections.

Finland and Sweden have integrated far-right parties as part of their governing coalitions. The jury is still out on the state of the Netherlands, as backroom deal-making continues after Geert Wilders’s victory in November. 

And now, all eyes are on EU elections polls, which predict that the far-right Identity & Democracy group, and European Conservatives and Reformists, known as ECR, could garner up to 169 seats after the June vote.

In the European Parliament, predicted election outcomes suggest the cordon sanitaire isn’t quite on the verge of collapse — yet. The traditional centrist majority composed of socialists, center-right, and liberals, known as Renew, would prevail, and all have said they would be willing to keep collaborating.

At the same time, the contours between the far-right and traditional conservative forces are getting blurred,

Things are looking different from 10 years ago, when Marine Le Pen was so adamantly against the EU and Hungary’s Viktor Orban had just minted the term ‘illiberal democracy.’ 

Traditional conservative parties are facing an almost existential crisis across Europe, with many of them adopting far-right narratives to snatch voters and openly collaborating with them, like in the Netherlands or Spain, for example.

In this vein, French conservatives have slowly but surely veered further towards the right, especially on immigration and identity politics, hoping to take potential National Rally  voters while carving out their own space between the far right and Mr. Macron’s decreasingly relevant Renaissance party.

EU elections next year may mark a turning point in the way right-wing politics are run in the Parliament – and France’s immigration bill gives just a slight sense of what this could look like.


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