In order to gain support from the right, however, the government agreed to water down the residency permits measures, while delaying migrants’ access to welfare benefits – including benefits for children and housing allowances – by several years.
The French have long prided themselves on having one of the most generous welfare systems in the world, granting payments even to foreign residents, helping them pay rent or care for their children with means-tested monthly contributions of up to a few hundred euros.
The far right and, more recently, conservatives, have argued these should be reserved for French people only. The deal agreed on Tuesday would delay access to housing benefits for unemployed non-EU migrants by five years.
The compromise also introduces migration quotas, makes it harder for immigrants’ children to become French, and says that dual nationals sentenced for serious crimes against the police could lose French citizenship.
The deal, agreed by a special committee of seven senators and seven deputies, was initially good news for Macron, who had made the migration bill a key plank of his second mandate and could otherwise have had to shelve it.
Just six months before European Parliament elections in which immigration will be key, however, it could also boost Marine Le Pen who, sensing a political opportunity, called the rejigged bill “a great ideological victory” for her far-right party.
She announced her party would vote for the bill in the lower house, causing immense embarrassment to the left wing of Macron’s party, who find it unpalatable to vote in unison with the far right.