PARIS — French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin offered to resign on Monday after his controversial immigration bill was rejected by the National Assembly, but President Emmanuel Macron refused to accept it.
The rejection of the bill on the first day of debates in the lower house is a crushing defeat for the government, after over a year spent negotiating and fine-tuning its details. The legislation, which has already passed a vote in the Senate, aims to speed up the deportation of foreigners who have committed crimes on French soil and includes measures to legalize undocumented workers in some cases.
Darmanin conceded a defeat for the government during an interview with the TF1 channel. “It’s a failure, of course, because I wanted to give police officers, gendarmes… and judges the tools to defeat illegal immigration,” he said.
On Monday, Macron asked Darmanin to submit “new proposals to move forward by overcoming this blockage and obtaining an effective law,” according to a presidential aide quoted by AFP.
After losing his majority in parliamentary elections last year, Macron has struggled to pass legislation and has depended on ad hoc deals with the opposition conservative Les Républicains party. But many conservative MPs called for much tougher legislation on immigration and refused to vote with the government on such an explosive issue.
The defeat for Darmanin was particularly humiliating as the bill was rejected by a slim margin before it had even been debated. The government lost the vote by 270 votes to 265.
Victory for the opposition
The government now faces the daunting task of finding a way out of the impasse. It can decide to send the rejected immigration bill back to the Senate, send it to a joint committee of senators and MPs to seek a compromise — or drop it. It may also use a controversial constitutional maneuver to adopt it without a vote.
On Monday evening, French Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne was to hold an emergency meeting with several ministers and lawmakers to find a way forward.
Opposition parties, from the far-right National Rally to the far-left France Unbowed, were in a celebratory mood in the wake of the vote on Monday evening.
Far-right leader Marine Le Pen told reporters she was “delighted” with the result, saying lawmakers had “protected the French from a new migration pull factor and the relocation of migrants in French villages.”
“It feels like the end of the road for his law and therefore for him,” far-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon wrote online.