Crisis In France As Health Minister Resigns

French President Emmanuel Macron defended the immigration bill negotiated with conservative lawmakers from critics who accuse the president of caving to far-right politicians like Marine Le Pen, the Associated Press reported.

During a December 20 interview on a popular French talk show, Macron said while the bill is imperfect, it is not a victory for the far-right but “what the French wanted.” He insisted that the legislation was “the fruit of a compromise.”

The bill would strengthen France’s authority to deport foreign nationals considered undesirable while making it more difficult for foreigners to avail themselves of the country’s social welfare program.

The bill passed the National Assembly on December 19 in a 349 to 186 vote after already being passed by the Senate.

French Health Minister Aurelien Rousseau resigned in protest over the legislation while some of the left-leaning lawmakers in Macron’s centrist alliance chose to abstain or vote against the bill.

When asked about Rousseau’s resignation, Macron said he respected the health minister. The president has already replaced Rousseau.

The December 19 vote in the National Assembly came after lawmakers from Macron’s centrist alliance made a deal with the conservative Republicans party to allow the measure to work through the legislative process, which some critics viewed as the Macron government shifting to the right.

Opponents of the legislation argued that the bill mimicked the far-right’s “national preference” demand that the French people and not foreign nationals profit from the riches of the country.

Marine Le Pen, the leader of the National Rally party, lauded the bill’s passage as an “ideological victory.” However, President Macron insisted that the compromise bill was a defeat for Le Pen’s party which he said “plays with fear.”

French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, who promoted the bill, said the government is seeking “greater firmness against foreign offenders” while still allowing between 7,000 and 10,000 migrant workers to obtain residency permits each year to fill jobs in sectors like the agricultural sector and food industry that need workers.

Before the legislation is enacted into law, the Constitutional Council must review the final version to confirm that it is constitutional.