Citizenship One-Upmanship

by Henry Farrell on August 3, 2010

While “Mitch McConnell”: is trying to figure out whether the US can get rid of birthright citizenship, French rightwing politicians seem to be engaged in a “bidding war”: to see who can come up with the most egregious proposal for stripping citizenship from criminals. As Art Goldhammer observes, this is a fairly transparent attempt to distract voters from the Sarkozy government’s embroilment with dodgy billionaires and tax advisers.

bq. Nicolas Sarkozy’s proposal to strip certain criminals of French citizenship has brought the xenophobes out of the woodwork. Thierry Mariani, always a leader in this pack, has proposed extending the punishment to all who have been naturalized for less than ten years and convicted of crimes with sentences of greater than five years. The round numbers make short shrift of the constitutional problem, that any such law creates two classes of French citizens, those whose citizenship status is precarious and the rest–contrary to the Constitution of the Fifth Republic, which states that “all French citizens are equal before the law.” …

bq. But these _dérapages_ were predictable once the cat was out of the bag. Indeed, one might go so far as to say that they were intended. Each _surenchère_ relaunches the polemic and distracts attention from other issues. And of course none of these measures–even in the exceedingly unlikely case that any of them are enacted, given the likely refusal of the _Conseil Constitutionnel_ to accept them–would have the slightest effect on the “security” of the French. What proportion of crimes is committed by recently naturalized citizens (or wandering gypsies)? … you seize on some trival _fait divers,_ invoke the inalienable human right of self-preservation, and direct anger and fear at some disliked and defenseless element of the population, accused without evidence of imperiling the “security” of authentic citizens.