Immigration in France

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Immigration is an intentional transfer of nationals of one country into another country for the reason of relocation. A corresponding term, “Emigration”, indicates movement out of a country, specifically, movement from the point of view of the country of depart rather than the country of entrance. The terms apply only to international movements and not to movements within a single country, however large-scale they may be. (Scot p1, 2008)

Both immigration and emigration entail personal option. The emigrant did not have to leave his country, at any rate not at the moment he did, while conditions may have made departure expedient; the immigrant did not have to elect the particular place he did. The immigrant is not merely a refugee who has fled his native land; he arrives in his new country with the intention, or at least the possibility of remaining permanently. (Scot p1, 2008)

Although immigration is quite personal, involving the whole range of human emotions and motivations, it may occur on a very large scale. From that standpoint, immigration is a particularly modern phenomenon, most applicable to human movement in the 19th and 20th centuries. (Scot p1, 2008)

Immigration in France:

In 1974 the government of France, which had previously recruited large number of foreign workers, closed its borders for all further immigration. The government decided to prevent the arrival of foreign workers and their families, to take new measures to fight clandestine immigration, and to crack down on black market jobs that employed many immigrants. Although the Immigration ban was presented as a temporary measure, it was extended in the same year and has been maintained ever since. The ban has been sustained through periods of right-wing party control, left-wing party control and even through periods of divided government. Today there are no indications that the immigration ban will be lifted. Indeed, the suspension of immigration has taken on the appearance of a permanent feature of French public policy. (Togman, p 1-2, 1997)

The ban’s implementation in 1974 marked a dramatic shift I French post war immigration policy. After the Second World War, the exodus millions of foreigners and wartime casualties left France left France with a severe shortage of workers. State elites as well as employer and trade union leaders, claimed that millions of foreign laborers were needed to fill the postwar labor gap. The National Office of Immigration (Office National d’Immigration, or ONI) was created in 1945in order to recruit these immigrant workers. Three years later, trade unions ended their support of immigration. Nevertheless, the state and employers were able to maintain a policy of large-scale immigration recruitment.

When it became evident in the mid 1950s that the ONI was unable to procure as many foreign workers as France needed, the government allowed employers to circumvent official immigration procedures. Henceforth, employers were free to hire immigrants who had entered the country either illegally or under false pretenses (i. e., on student or tourist visas). The state in turn provided all the necessary paper work to give immigrants a legal status after they had found employment, a procedure known as “Regularization”. The state and employers also increased their coordinated efforts to recruit immigrants through legal channels. Moreover, the French state negotiated numerous labor accords, especially in 1960s, with nations from which workers emigrated in significant number. This phenomenon of state-employer cooperation in an attempt to ensure large scale immigration constituted what could be called a “Recruiting Regime”. (Togman, p 1-2, 1997)

This paper attempts to develop a framework for explaining the dramatic shift from a policy of large-scale foreign labor recruitment to the prohibition of immigration. It is assumed that this border closing is either based on either economic or socio-cultural conditions, but later these bases are also regarded as inadequate for being based on theoretical or empirical problems, and for relying on structural conditions to explain immigration stoppage. Through historical reconstruction of postwar French immigration policy, and through the use of formal models, this study demonstrates that a satisfactory explanation of the immigration ban must consider both structural conditions and strategic interactions among relevant political actors.

The history of postwar immigration policy testifies to the fact that none of the three major groups, the state, employers and trade unions, was able to implement its will unilaterally, and that a coalition between at least between two of these actors was necessary to support any particular direction in migration law. Thus, a coalition model is used to show the coordination problem faced by these three actors in the development and implementation of immigration policy. (Togman, p 1-2, 1997)

Economic, Socio-Cultural and Actor-Oriented Approaches

There is no single authoritative account of why France and other European countries closed their borders for immigration in the early 1970s. However, many scholars and journalists have subscribed to one of two explanations which have achieved common sense standing as follows:

* The general contention that public policy outcomes are driven by underlying economic developments;

* The observation that unlike other factors of production when a nation imports foreign labor it is bringing in human beings, that is, the socio-cultural approach.

Although these two approaches are often viewed as competing explanations, from a methodological perspective they are quite similar. This is because both approaches seek to explain immigration policies by direct reference to structural variables, be they economic or socio cultural. Fro this vantage point, the distinctiveness of a third approach becomes clearer. Several authors have begun to develop actor-oriented approaches to understanding and explaining immigration policy. These works have examined the impact of major political actors such as receiving and sending governments, employers, trade unions and immigrants themselves.

1. Structural Explanations

Structural explanations are attempts to account for human behavior. John Elster has offered a stylized account that views structures as one of two successive filtering devices which produce human behavior. Structural constraints, from this perspective, are initial filters which reduce “the set of abstractly possible courses of actions” to a “vastly smallest subset of feasible actions”. (Elster, p 113, 1984)

Given these structural limits to human actions, the second filtering device, according to Elster, is the mechanism that determines which of the various courses of action, within structural constraints, will be followed. This is where human agency fits into an explanation. (Elster, p 113, 1984)

2. Economic Explanations

Economic explanations have long been at the center of traditional migration theories. Even schools of thought that are as theoretically and ideologically at odds as modernization theory and dependency theory converge on the point that economics drives migration. As Aljendro Portes (1983) has pointed out, both these theories assign “responsibility for the origin of these movements to backwardness and poverty of sending areas and the gap between them and the receiving regions. ( p 71). Such reasoning is often referred to in the migration literature as a “push-pull” approach because economic deprivation in sending regions “pushes” migrants, while the relative wealth of the receiving regions “pulls” them. One variant of economic explanations for immigration policies is the Marxist and neo-Marxist frameworks advanced by some scholars. According to them immigration helps provide capitalists nations with “relative surplus population”, or an “industrial Reserve Army”. (Freeman, p 174-191, 1979)

When the history of French Immigration policy is reconstructed in subsequent discussion, closed attention will be paid to economic conditions.

3. Socio-Cultural Explanations

In addition to migratory flows and the regulation, scholars have long been interested in questions of immigrant incorporation into “host” societies. More specifically, several scholars of migration policy have offered socio-cultural explanations for the Western European border closings of the early 1970s. According to these accounts, the difficulties of assimilating large numbers of immigrants, many of whom had come from culturally “distant” regions of the world, led state elites to stop further immigration.

“By the mid-1970s France was startled to realize that since the war it had unwittingly imported not temporary, expendable laborers but durable immigrant communities… French policy makers finally had to accept that immigration had become a full-fledged political and social issue. The government soon provided its own more thoroughgoing response: in 1974 it instituted a ban on new immigration”. (Ireland, p 46-47, 1994)

However, Socio-cultural constraints are not sufficient to explain why the French state banned immigration in one instance and not in the other.

4. Actor-Oriented Explanations

Wihtol de Wenden offers a more comprehensive study of all major actors involved in French Immigration Policy, including the state, trade unions, employers, sending countries, and immigrant groups. For Wihtol de Wenden, 1974 marks a turning point not so much because immigration was suspended, but more because immigrants themselves became important political actors. Their emergence on the scene changed the dynamics of immigration politics. Wendon’s focus on relevant political actors might lead one to expect her to offer an explanation for the French immigration ban that centers on these groups. However, no such explanation is offered. Rather she writes that on the question of whether the decision was based on economic or political considerations, “the debate is still open”. (Wenden, p 165, 1988)

It is argued that coalition formation between the state, employers and trade unions was the central determinant of French Immigration Policy.

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