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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Un "choc de simplification" pour les étrangers est nécessaire

by Nicolas Jounin

A « Simplification Shock » In Favour Of Foreigners is Neccessary

Translated Thursday 13 February 2014, by Isabelle Métral

Inspired by President François Hollande’s recent proposal of a “simplification shock” - meaning a drastic slashing of administrative red tape and regulations - as a magic remedy for economic stagnation and the imbalance of the public budget, in short, for “the crisis” - Nicolas Jounin, a sociologist, proposes extending its benefit to immigrants who struggle year after year, too often unsuccessfully, to be granted the precious documents!

Salaried workers threatened with expulsion because they have moved to new jobs and have new bosses or when their contracts have expired; pupils and students who pass their exams and find their success rewarded with the loss of their documents; former spouses who are turned into undocumented visitors following a divorce; relatives of sick foreigners allowed to stay on but without the right to hold jobs… Such is the daily lot of the greater part of documented or undocumented foreigners in France these days.

Immigration laws add up to an inextricable sum of regulations piled on top of one another to cut up and force individual lives into pre-fabricated pigeonholes, thus conferring on Préfets (T’s N: the representatives of the Executive, indeed of the State, in each département,) an inordinate, arbitrary power incompatible with the Republican ideal of administration under the State of Law. Even a foreigner who knew the law inside-out could never be sure to get a residence permit, for in most cases the ultimate arbitrary decision rests with the administration alone.

Foreigners have for a long long time been assigned to a subordinate position, subordinate, that is, to the utility that the State recognizes in them. The only exception to this ad-hoc machinery (for the production of sub-citizens, that is) was the implementation in 1984 of the legally renewable ten-year residence permit, which had been one of the demands of the 1983 Marchers for Equality. But it has since been whittled down by a crop of short-term and precarious residence permits: such are the petty cogs of a wheel that grinds people down, inviting them to endure all kinds of exploitation, whether under their spouses or their bosses.

“Humanism and firmness”, we are told, are the key principles today, as if it was enough to wrap barbariism in marsh-mallow for it to look appetizing. Once more we are served the stale formula of the weighted distinction between “unlawful immigration”, “relentlessly to be fought against”, and “lawful immigration”, which only needs, so the story goes, to be made “more secure” (so ran one of the presidential candidate’s fifty commitments). Now it is crystal clear that the latter generates the former, precisely because it is anything but a “secure” condition. Since most immigrants arrive legally before being “illegalized” by a legal arsenal that the new Leftist majority has left intact.

Bureaucracy and red tape are in the government’s sights, but the bureaucratic and red tape procedures that foreigners choke under are not to be tampered with. When will the “simplification shock” relieve them? To think that the government is set on “simplifying procedures” for companies in order that each can “concentrate on its trade rather than be obsessed with its paper work”, how can foreigners’ reciprocal wish “to concentrate on their lives rather than be obsessed with their papers” ever be bluntly ignored? Their daily lives would change drastically if the corollary principles of the “simplification shock” applied to them also!

The principle that “we need to be told only once”, or the principle that “without proof to the contrary, we must be trusted” are essential to those who are always suspected of fraud by immigration departments. And so of the principle that “no answer is a yes answer” for all document seekers that are kept waiting month after month for an answer that will never come and are forced to live underground.

The principle that administrative decisions must be predictable in virtue of well established, lawful regulations would bring back legal residence permits, together with the possibility, when one applied, to know the outcome.

Lastly, let’s imagine an exemplary instance of simplification that would do away with the unjustifiable diversity of residence permits, and replace them with “a single, stable, legally renewable residence permit, with the right to work.”

Precisely, this demand now (or rather once more) is put forward by a coalition of associations and unions [1]. Were it considered seriously, it would save useless checks, and the half-billion euros wasted on the expulsion of over 30,000 undocumented people. But mostly, it would also blow fresh life into that old idea that human beings have equal rights…

This demand could tip the scales if only those primarily concerned had the right to vote. By the way, is this seen on the government’s agenda any time soon? Oh, no!

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