New French Laws Placate Demands for `Zero Immigration' SIGNS OF CULTURAL UNEASE

Article excerpt

WHAT would Voltaire think? The 18th century French philosopher, known for saying that "Every man has two countries, his own and France," might have had to reassess that statement after the country's National Assembly on Friday passed tough new laws to discourage immigration.

Coming on the heels of other legislation making it more difficult for foreigners to acquire French nationality, the new laws combine to portray a country ill at ease with its estimated 4 million foreigners. (US crackdown, page 6.)

The new laws are in line with Interior Minister Charles Pasqua's goal of "zero immigration" - a goal that most economic, legal, and demographic experts agree is neither realistic nor desirable. Like much of Europe, France is currently bogged down in a job-eliminating recession - but also has a birth rate among the "French" population that is below the replacement level.

The new immigration measures:

* Tighten laws under which legal immigrants can bring family members into France: so-called family reunification rules.

* End the automatic issuance of 10-year work permits to children who turn 18, after having entered France under family reunification.

* Prohibit granting of French nationality to an illegal resident marrying a French citizen.

* Tighten regulations under which foreign students can acquire long-term residency.

* Make attaining political asylum more difficult.

The immigration legislation follows new nationality laws that complicate the means by which children born in France of foreign parents can attain French nationality. Such children will now have to wait until they are 18 to request French nationality. New laws also allow the police to check without cause anyone's identification papers.

In proposing the anti-immigration measures, Mr. Pasqua argued that they would help the country's legal immigrants integrate better by addressing the threatening aura of "uncontrolled immigration," and would help dry up the xenophobia that is one of the seedbeds of Europe's extreme right. …