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February 2, 2024 6:51 pm

France constitutional court rejects portions of controversial immigration bill

By Tyler Li.

The Constitutional Council of France rejected on [last] Thursday [25] substantial portions of French President Emmanuel Macron’s proposed immigration law reform package. The legislation, titled “Bill to Control Immigration and Enhance Integration,” was initially comprised of 86 articles and was referred before the council by the President of the Republic, the President of the National Assembly, and over sixty legislators from both the National Assembly and the Senate. Out of those 86 articles, the council raised objection to 32 articles.

The council’s primary objection was to 32 articles deemed as “legislative riders,” indicating their disconnect from the bill’s central intent. This decision was based on Article 45 of the French Constitution, which requires that any amendment in a bill must have a direct or indirect link to the main text of the bill. The council found that these 32 articles did not have such a link to the original bill’s content. Therefore, according to established constitutional rules, these articles were deemed unrelated to the bill’s primary purpose and were removed for not following proper legislative procedure.

The Constitutional Council is comprised of nine members who are appointed for nine-year terms. The members are appointed by the President of the Republic and the presidents of each of the Houses of Parliament (National Assembly and Senate).

The following list of unrelated provisions were removed:

  • Modifications to conditions for family reunification (Articles 3, 4, 5).
  • Changes in residency requirements for family-related purposes (Articles 6, 8).
  • Adjustments to health-related residency permits (Articles 9, 10).
  • Alterations to student visa regulations and tuition fees for foreign students (Articles 11, 12, 13).
  • Exclusion of immigrants in irregular situations from certain transport fare reductions in Île-de-France (Article 15).
  • Provisions for long-stay visas for British nationals owning second homes in France (Article 16).
  • Penalization of irregular stay of adult foreigners (Article 17).
  • Conditions for non-EU foreigners to access housing benefits and personal housing assistance (Article 19).
  • Reforms to nationality law (Articles 24, 25, 26, 81).
  • International development aid considerations related to immigration control (Paragraphs III and IV of Article 47).
  • Changes to emergency housing conditions for specific categories of homeless or distressed individuals (Article 67)​​.

In addition to these procedural rejections, the council made substantive rejections based on unconstitutionality. One of the articles affected was Article 1, which was partially rejected. Article 1 outlined a proposal for the French Parliament to engage in an annual debate to determine the number of foreigners permitted to settle in France. The council found this approach inconsistent with constitutional norms, noting that neither explicit nor implicit constitutional mandates require the legislature to set such numerical targets or hold these debates for immigration.

Article 38 was also entirely rejected on substantive grounds. This particular article authorized the forced collection of fingerprints and photographs from foreigners without their consent in certain scenarios. The council determined that this article violated constitutional principles, specifically infringing on the guarantee of personal liberty because the article lacked the necessary legal safeguards to protect individual rights.

Furthermore, the council applied interpretative reservations to two additional articles and declared ten articles of the law as either partially or fully compliant with the Constitution, including those stipulating the requirements for foreigners to uphold the principles of the Republic.

In response to the council’s finding, President of the National Assembly Yaël Braun-Pivet said that respect for procedure is not a formal question but, instead, a requirement for the clarity and sincerity of parliamentary debate and a condition for the quality of law. She also vowed to continue seeing over debate on the bill on the floor of the National Assembly.

The bill passed the French Parliament in December 2023 after heated debate and public backlash. The bill is seen as a shift to the right from Macron’s original centrist platform. Shortly after the bill’s passage, it was referred to the council, which led to the Thursday decision.

[courtesy of the jurist.org]

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