PARIS – French lawmakers adopted Thursday an amendment to a bill toughening immigration law that would strip naturalized citizens of their nationality if they are convicted of murdering a police officer — a measure critics say creates a category of second-class French.
The conservative government's amendment was passed 75-57 with one abstention in a chamber that was more than half empty. It would strip citizenship from people naturalized less than 10 years ago if they're convicted of murdering police or other authorities.
President Nicolas Sarkozy, who introduced the idea in a speech in July, says French nationality "should be earned."
However, rival leftist lawmakers contended he was pandering to the far-right National Front party to pump up his lagging poll ratings before the 2012 presidential elections.
Lawmakers opened debate Tuesday on a series of government amendments tacked onto a bill to toughen immigration law — much of which translates into French law, as required, an EU immigration pact. But the amendments are particular to France.
The full bill goes to a vote Oct. 12 before heading to the Senate. However, it was likely that opponents of the measure would put the case before the Constitutional Council.
Lawmaker after lawmaker on the left denounced the amendment as unconstitutional — and un-French.
"This measure is politically unacceptable in the land of human rights, in our republic that espouses equality as an essential value," said Jean-Pierre Dufau. He denounced it as a "cynical" operation to "actively court voters of the National Front," a far-right party.
Another Socialist, Daniele Hoffman-Rispal, said the measure would stigmatize all foreign-born citizens of France and is misplaced because violent crimes, however horrific, do not threaten the vital interests of the state — like treason.
Currently, a citizen can lose French nationality for treason or terrorism.
Immigration Minister Eric Besson has said the amendment is largely symbolic because it is to help cultivate pride in being French, in keeping with the tenor of Sarkozy's leadership, which has focused on issues that indirectly affect citizens of immigrant origin — from crime-fighting to a controversial bid, led by Besson, to boost French identity. That latter effort was seen as stigmatizing second- and third-generation French youths with immigrant origins, often Muslims.