Cultural Integration in the European Union: A Comparative Analysis of the Immigration Policies of France and Spain

AuthorAbbey C. Furlong
PositionJ.D. Candidate, The University of Iowa College of Law, May 2010.

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I Introduction

Immigration has been a natural occurrence throughout human history. As changes occur across the globe, people inevitably adapt and respond to such changes, sometimes by taking the seemingly drastic step of uprooting themselves in pursuit of better prospects. Often due to necessity, including war, famine, abject poverty, and natural and manmade disasters, immigrants are drawn to wealthy nations with hopes of finding work and perhaps even a place in society. Page 682

While prosperous host countries with expanding economies are often willing to reap the benefits of an immigrant labor force, they are generally less willing to accept immigrants into their society. This results in the marginalization of the immigrant population. This Note compares the immigration policies of France and Spain with a particular emphasis on the level of integration that their current laws permit. It further analyzes how these two nations can more actively foster the integration of immigrants into the nations' respective societies.

Part II of this Note provides background on the development of existing immigration policies in France and Spain. Part III examines recent immigration trends to the European Union generally and how they have affected the immigration policy debate within the European Union, which, in turn, impacts the immigration policy of France and Spain. Part IV of this Note discusses the heightened racial and political tensions surrounding the current immigration debate by examining specific instances of racially motivated violence in both France and Spain. Part V analyzes how France and Spain address immigrant integration in their existing immigration frameworks. Part VI discusses the effect that EU legislation has had on France's and Spain's immigration policy. In recognition of the fact that social and political attitudes towards immigrants fluctuate according to different influences and pressures, Part VII briefly discusses the impact that the global economic downturn may have on France's and Spain's perception of immigrants and the implementation of new immigration policy. Finally, this Note concludes with a series of recommendations for how France and Spain can more actively promote the integration of immigrants within their respective societies.

II History Of The Existing Immigration Policies Of France And Spain
A France

Because France has long been a destination for immigrants, its immigration policy has gone through several drastic changes. 1 Unfortunately, periods of "[e]conomic stagnation led to a rise in ethnocentric sentiment and a shift towards anti-immigration discourse and support for extreme-right political parties." 2 For example, in 1984, the French government publicly announced that many immigrants were overstaying their permits; an acknowledgment that immediately catapulted the topic of immigration to the center of the national political stage. 3 It was during this time that the Page 683 conservative French National Front ("FN") party, which advocated an official policy of assimilationist republicanism, gained the greatest support in those areas with the highest percentages of Maghreb and Turkish immigrants. 4This hostility towards non-EU immigrants was further exacerbated once the public began to associate immigration, particularly from North African countries, with threats such as terrorism, the loss of French jobs, and the potential collapse of the social security system. 5

The assimilationist republican argument is that immigrants should strive to accept and embrace traditional French values, particularly the language and the notion of secularism, while simultaneously abandoning (or, at the very least, relegating to the private sphere) any continued adherence to their original cultures, particularly with respect to religion. 6 While certain past immigrant groups, mostly of European descent, successfully assumed the "French" identity, gaining social and economic acceptance, difficult economic times have led to an increasingly hostile attitude towards immigrants. 7 Such attitudes are manifested by "urbanization trends, with a large portion of the middle-class moving out of mixed neighborhoods and schools, thereby leading to the creation of immigrant ghettos characterized by socioeconomic exclusion and inequalities, with demands for political inclusion and cultural recognition remaining largely unmet." 8

Consequently, France's immigration policy reflects those attitudes. Since the government's criticism of the 1974 immigration law, which permitted immigrants who had legally resided in the country for three years to obtain a permit to remain for an additional ten years, a series of recent policy reforms have made it nearly impossible for immigrants to legally seek employment in France. 9 In fact, non-EU immigrants who apply for a work permit "are almost systematically rejected as European preference is systematically invoked," a further manifestation of France's overwhelmingly ethnocentric mindset. 10

Despite the fact that French immigration policy has historically endorsed the assimilation of immigrants, recent developments favor a more politically Page 684 popular integrationist approach. 11 Nevertheless, the recent riots of 2005 put into sharp focus the continued and intense feeling of economic, social, and cultural exclusion, even by those perceived to be immigrants. 12 The riots were groundbreaking in that they were led by the children of recent immigrants, themselves French citizens. 13

These riots also served to underscore the extent to which France rarely enforces its newly developed integrationist rhetoric. With the May 2007 election of conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy, France's immigration policy has substantially reverted to its assimilationist roots, further exacerbating the existing tension between French nationals and immigrants. 14

B Spain

In contrast to France, Spain's history is marked by emigration. 15 In the early 20th Century, Spain experienced a large outflow of its population to Latin America, whereas France saw an influx of immigrants from its colonies. 16 During the late 20th Century, however, Spain quickly became a popular destination for non-EU immigrants hoping to take advantage of its stable and growing economy as a newly minted member of the European Union. 17

Prior to its 1986 accession to the EU, then known as the European Community, Spain was virtually a "monoethnic" state. 18 The Spanish Civil War in the 1930s and the subsequent dictatorship of Francisco Franco, which ended only upon his death in 1975, left Spain socially and economically impoverished. 19 Consequently, Spain became unattractive to immigrants seeking either a reprieve from their own oppressive societies or to benefit from a potential host country's prosperity. 20 Even as late as 1986, Spain Page 685 simply had no policy in place to cope with the influx of immigration it experienced after joining the European Union. 21

In 1985, however, in order to tailor its policy to European standards in preparation for EU accession, Spain introduced its first ever immigration law, Ley Orgánica del Tribunal Constitucional ("LO 7/1985"). 22 Though this law was "mainly directed to facilitate the expulsion of irregular immigrants," it had limited practical application because Spain's foreign population "barely amounted to 200,000 people, most of whom were European citizens" at the time. 23

It is not coincidental that within a month of Spain's accession, five Member States signed the Schengen Agreement to dismantle the internal EU borders. 24 Consequently, "[t]here is little doubt that Spain's entrance into the EC was contingent on its passing restrictive immigration policies, and more generally, agreeing to its new role as Europe's de facto border patrol." 25 Thus, while Spain had yet to experience any of the profound effects of mass immigration, the Spanish government put into place an immigration policy designed to address EU needs rather than its own.

Despite Spain's newfound responsibility as guardian of Europe's southern border, Spain passed its second immigration law ("LO 4/2000") in 2000. 26 LO 4/2000 addressed some of the problems of LO 7/1985, namely the original immigration law's failure to consider the welfare of the immigrants themselves. 27 In particular, LO 4/2000 emphasized the need to integrate immigrants and afforded increased access to social services such as free healthcare, education, and public housing. 28 Nevertheless, the more Page 686 conservative Popular Party of Spain successfully reformed some of the social aspects of the law with the adoption of its third immigration law ("LO 8/2000") just four months later. 29

The LO 8/2000 repealed some of the social rights that LO 4/2000 provided to immigrants (legal or undocumented). 30 It also allocated greater power to local police to detain undocumented immigrants for up to forty days and to facilitate the deportation of undocumented immigrants within seventy-two hours of being held. 31 Perhaps in response to the overtly socialist nature of LO 4/2000, one of the more severe reformations under LO 8/2000 was its provision for the "incarceration of undocumented immigrants for the sole offense of not having residence permits." 32

In light of the fact that LO 4/2000 offered immigrants equal access to many of the...

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