- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 22, 2007

The effort to reduce the flow of immigrants into the United States after a period of unprecedented mass immigration is sometimes caricatured as a far-right project. Tell that to the French.

The tough immigration measures the French National Assembly passed this week suggest once again that restrictions are the normal recourse of nations that exercise their prerogatives. They make sense after periods of prolonged, high-volume immigration — not to mention after episodes like the 2005 riots. French citizens overwhelmingly agree that it is time for their government to moderate immigration. A survey published this week in the French daily Le Figaro indicates that 74 percent favor immigration quotas, while majorities oppose amnesty for illegal aliens and support French-language requirements for immigrants.

Should this bill pass the additional legislative hurdles, it will for the first time require that new arrivals to France demonstrate knowledge of the French language and cultural values. It is somewhat surprising that a country so proud of its cultural heritage and so protective of its language would not already have such tests in place. Other elements of this bill include voluntary DNA testing for applicants who seek to prove a blood relation to a French citizen. It also legalizes gathering data on immigrants of certain ethnic backgrounds. Both of these proposals are under fire in France and their prospects of passage are uncertain.

Those who impugn the French here have no feel for the fright of the 2005 Clichy-sous-Bois riots, nor for the uniquely assertive French national identity, which values its culture as a good unto itself. Critics should first ask how they came to regard movements to moderate rapid social and cultural change as the suspicious extreme. It is they who have come unattached from the nation and its state, which bring order and security to a chaotic world. N’est pas?

Not every French idea is appropriate for other nations, least of all the United States with its immigrant tradition. But the impulse is the same in every lasting nation. Moderating immigration after a period of rapid inflows, to allow time for assimilation, is nothing radical. It is quite normal.

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