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by Pierre-Henri Lab Article paru le 25 avril 2008

Hortefeux is playing it tough

Translated Tuesday 29 April 2008, by Edward Lamb

The Immigration Minister puts up a steadfast appearance in the face of growing criticism of his political standpoint.

How to find a way out of the conflict on the regularization of clandestine workers without provoking a general questioning of the validity of the policy of immigration pursued by the government ? The dilemma is most cumbersome for Immigration Minister, Brice Hortefeux. In an interview which he gave, yesterday, to Le Figaro, he chose to show his intransigence.

«There will be no massive regularization operations », «There can only be case by case examinations », «The law applies », Brice Hortefeux wants to be uncompromising and refuses any intention of « giving up ground ». That apparent firmness pursues a double purpose.

The first is to avoid the "snowball" phenomenon. The Minister cannot admit that the strike initiated by the clandestine workers obliges him to back down. To acknowledge that would be the equivalent of sending a message of encouragement to all of the concerned wage-earners to follow suit. That contagion could be fatal to his policy already seriously shaken by the present movement. It could equally lead to strengthening the labour unions, and especially the CGT (General Confederation of Labour), in sectors of the economy where the weakness of their presence allows employers to maintain low wages and the lack of job security.

The second objective is to avoid that the humiliation inflicted on that occasion by some business leaders, who publicly refuted the "Hortefeux Law", might provoke a political defeat not only for the government but also for the President of the Republic. The stand taken by employer’s unions of the concerned business sectors demonstrates that doubt over the legitimacy of current immigration legislation is winning over public opinion.

The clandestine workers, in coming out of hiding, appear for what they are : wage-earners like any others, who participate in the social and economic life of the country. The Minister wants to avoid at all costs that recent growing awareness, as that would make the strategy of the foreigner, made the scapegoat of the social sufferings engendered by the policy-making of the right wing majority, seem out of date. In the Figaro interview, punctuated with figures and statistics quantifying the expulsions of immigrants, Brice Hortefeux tries to convince us that his law produces « results » and that, consequently, it’s efficient. He further tries to demonstrate that the State is no more indulgent with employers who use illegal immigrant labour than it is with clandestine immigrants themselves. Finally, he tries to distract public opinion by ostensibly maintaining the confusion between immigration and unemployment.

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