the major issue of undocumented workers

Article 3 of the immigration bill, carried by Gérald Darmanin, provides for the granting of a residence permit to foreigners who work illegally in France in sectors suffering from a labor shortage, such as construction or public works. Restoration. The right, which the majority needs to pass the text, is opposed to it, while the left wing of the macronie is fiercely attached to it. Explanations.

Between the left wing of its relative majority in the National Assembly and the right, the government will have to choose. While the Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, has been working for months on his immigration bill, the creation of a residence permit for undocumented immigrants working in France in professions in tension, proposed in the article 3, is at the heart of a standoff.

If the deputies and senators of the Republicans (LR) applaud with both hands the desire of the executive to legislate once again to accelerate the deportations of delinquent foreigners to the border, they are on the other hand fiercely opposed to any regularization of undocumented immigrants. If it were to pass as is, this law would, according to them, cause “a pull of air” which would lead to more illegal immigration. They therefore refuse to vote for the law if article 3 is maintained and even threaten a motion of censure.

See alsoImmigration bill: undocumented immigrants exercising a “job in tension” in an impasse

“I am not afraid of bringing down this government,” said Tuesday, September 12, on Sud Radio, the head of the LR senators, Bruno Retailleau, insisting that “an illegal worker is not intended to stay in France” and predicting; that as it stands, the bill “will be a new suction pump” for immigration.

Faced with this right which is showing its muscles and putting pressure on the government, the left wing of the presidential majority also wanted to make itself heard. Led by the president of the law commission Sacha Houlié, ten parliamentarians from the majority published with elected officials from the Liot group and Nupes a column on Tuesday in Libération, calling for the regularization of undocumented workers.

These 35 signatory deputies and senators – including the boss of the Communist Party and former candidate in the presidential election Fabien Roussel, the leader of the socialist group in the Assembly Boris Vallaud and the former boss of Europe Écologie-Les Verts Julien Bayou – are demanding regularizations “in sectors in tension such as construction, hotels and restaurants, cleanliness, handling, personal assistance”. “Without them, these sectors and entire sections of our country could not function,” they emphasize.

Although there are no official figures concerning undocumented immigrants, their number is estimated, within a wide range, between 400,000 and 800,000, according to the Immigrant Information and Support Group (Gisti). Many of them occupy jobs left vacant by French people or legal foreigners. This is how they find themselves in professions with little or no qualifications in sectors known as “in tension” because they have difficulty recruiting: construction, agriculture, cleaning, security, hotels and restaurants, personal services in particular.

Read also“Professions in tension”: European countries are becoming aware of the lack of national workforce

Nicolas Sarkozy’s “chosen immigration” model

“These are non-relocatable professions which have been occupied by many undocumented immigrants for decades,” laments Violaine Carrère, lawyer at Gisti. “Most often, these people work without a contract and are paid from hand to hand for a salary lower than the minimum wage and, of course, without the slightest social contribution,” she continues. Others work under aliases by borrowing the identity of a person in a legal situation. Still others have false papers. Some, again, have a residence permit from another European country and work in France even though they do not have the right to do so.”

Article 3 of the bill is in fact inspired by “selected immigration” dear to Nicolas Sarkozy. Already in 2007, the then Minister of the Interior, Brice Hortefeux, passed a law allowing employers to request the regularization of their undocumented employees if they have been working for at least a year in a sector and an area. geographic tension. This law was supplemented in 2012 by the Valls circular, the aim of which was to harmonize practices from one department to another. Currently, around 30,000 regularizations per year are carried out this way.

But while obtaining this type of residence permit is done after a request from the employer and is left to the discretion of the prefect, article 3 of Gérald Darmanin’s bill places the initiative of the request in the hands of undocumented immigrants.

See also“I don’t want to hide”: a worker denounces the exploitation of undocumented immigrants in the construction industry

“This is progress, but all of this is still total hypocrisy,” regrets Violaine Carrère. Undocumented immigrants officially do not have the right to work, but must prove that they have worked well for at least eight months to be regularized. Furthermore, the government remains in a utilitarian logic: we want to regularize undocumented immigrants when they are useful, but when we no longer need them, we send them home. “It’s not about hospitality, but about the use of labor.”

Because the residence permit will only be valid for one year. It will therefore have to be constantly renewed. And the text of the law does not currently specify what will happen if the foreign worker changes jobs and moves from a sector in tension to an environment without recruitment difficulties. Or even if his job leaves the list of those in tension.

“There is an urgent need to move forward,” assures Maine-et-Loire MP Stella Dupont (related to Renaissance), signatory of the column published in Libération. “The country needs these workers in construction, catering, care, home support. Everyone turns a blind eye or turns a blind eye because we have no solution. But the reality is, It’s that these people make our country run and that they are today victims of a form of modern-day exploitation because they are locked up in precariousness.”

“Beneficial for the French economy”

Undocumented workers do not benefit from any assistance – with the exception of state medical aid – and most often sleep on the streets or in squats, according to Gisti. “Without papers, without recognition, they experience the greatest difficulties in finding food, housing, healthcare and access to a normal social life. Clandestineness makes them invisible, weakens them and condemns them to precariousness and desocialization,” write the signatories of the platform.

“Regularizing them would allow them to fully integrate and lead a dignified life, but it would also be beneficial for the French economy, adds Violaine Carrère. Because who says pay slip, says social contributions. And with a real salary, we can spend more. And who says consumption, says VAT.”

On the employers’ side, apart from restaurateurs who support the regularization of undocumented immigrants, discretion in the debate is essential. For Gisti, this is a sign that most of them are very comfortable with a status quo which allows them to put pressure on wages or working conditions.

See also“I dream of being regularized”: 10 years of work in France and still undocumented

“Rogue employers exist. But there are also many who would prefer to be in the nails, nuance Stella Dupont. When I meet a restaurateur who has no application and who finds himself faced with a difficult choice and sees himself forced to go out of the box, he finds it a shame.”

Will the government move in this direction by maintaining article 3 of the bill or will it give in to pressure from the right and the extreme right? “The entire majority is committed to this measure,” government spokesperson Olivier Véran assured Tuesday morning on CNews and Europe 1.

“Those who sell you an appeal linked to immigration law are lying to you,” he said. “We are talking about a few thousand people,” he downplayed, citing as an example Germany “and even Denmark” whose birth rates are falling and which “today structure the arrival of foreigners saying ‘if you come to our country, you take a job and you participate in the economic activity of our country'”.

The debates already promise to be electric. According to Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, the text should arrive on November 6 in the Senate in a public session, then in early 2024 in the National Assembly.


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