- The Washington Times - Monday, February 6, 2006

PARIS — Nicolas Sarkozy, France’s interior minister and presidential hopeful, has announced tougher rules on immigration, making it easier to expel foreign workers or those refusing to integrate.

The proposals included in a draft law, which Mr. Sarkozy will present to the Cabinet on Thursday, aim to change the very nature of immigration into France.

“We no longer want immigration that is inflicted [on us],” he said. “We want selected immigration. The system of integration the French way no longer works,” he told Le Journal du Dimanche.

The draft law calls for the creation of a points system that ranks students and workers based on their country of origin and their field of study and work.

Workers who could “contribute to the economic dynamism of our country,” such as scientists, information-technology specialists or artists, would be given a three-year work permit. Students taking courses that are in less demand would be given priority in obtaining visas.

Those applying for lengthy stays would have to respect a list of obligations as part of a “contract of welcome and integration.”

These include learning French and actively looking for a job. In return, they would be “protected against discrimination” and given 10-year residency permits.

Immigrants failing to respect human rights would face expulsion.

“In the case of a woman kept hostage in her home without learning French, the whole family will be obliged to leave,” Mr. Sarkozy said.

The law also makes it harder for an illegal alien to gain residency status by marrying a French person. The new spouse must wait three years instead of 18 months to apply, and then prove he or she has made efforts to integrate into his or her new home.

Only 5 percent of legal immigrants came to France for work, said Mr. Sarkozy, who heads the ruling Union for a Popular Movement party. The remainder arrived to join family members.

Although that right is guaranteed under the European Convention on Human Rights, Mr. Sarkozy pointed out that “a foreigner wanting his family to join him would have to prove that he can support them through his salary.”

Under the proposals, companies that employ foreign workers illegally would have to pay for their repatriation.

Immigration is expected to be a central issue in presidential elections next year, partly because of France’s worst urban rioting in almost four decades at the end of last year. Mr. Sarkozy’s hard-line response to the violence, perpetrated in large part by descendants of African immigrants living in poor neighborhoods, helped lift his popularity.

Mr. Sarkozy rejected the zero-immigration policy of the far-right National Front, calling it “technically impossible and counterproductive,” but the “clandestine prize” that gives illegal aliens permanent residency if they stay in the country for more than 10 years unnoticed is expected to be scrapped.

Patrick Weil, a leading immigration specialist, criticized the proposals as a “facade” to lure the extreme-right vote.

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