I had the pleasure of participating in France 24’s week-in-review panel discussion program, The World This Week, last Friday. The other guests were the IHT’s Matthew Saltmarsh, Newsweek’s Chrostopher Dickey and France 24’s Annette Young. We discussed the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, the “end of combat operations” in Iraq, Tony Blair’s autobiography, and French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s campaign to expel illegal Roma immigrants from France. Part one can be found here. Part two can be found here.
I managed to leave the studio and make it home without having compiled a long “I should have said . . . ” list, which is how I personally determine whether or not it was a successful appearance. One thing I might not have articulated is that, regardless of whether or not Sarkozy’s policy is a political winner for him, I find it pretty distasteful to single out a particular group of illegal immigrants by national origin or ethnicity. It’s a shameless pander to the Front National voters he’ll need to hang on to from 2012 if he has any chance of winning the 2017 election.
As I mentioned on the show, he’s been tough on immigration from the outset of his presidency. But it’s one thing to argue that the state must uphold its laws or else amend them to better articulate its intentions. (To provide humanitarian asylum, for instance, or to better fund programs to integrate particular immigrant groups into French society, both of which I’d say are necessary in France.) But this is a case of taking advantage of a news story that feeds into popular resentment toward a historically victimized group, and that’s a dangerous mixture to play around with.