French opposition lawmakers reject the government's key immigration bill without debating it

PARIS (AP) — French opposition lawmakers on Monday rejected an immigration bill without debating it, in a major blow to President Emmanuel Macron ’s government, which had championed the proposed law as one of its flagship measures.

The government has yet to decide whether to keep pushing for the adoption of the bill intended to strengthen the country’s ability to expel foreigners considered undesirable or withdraw it.

Members of all oppositions groups on the left and on the right voted a motion providing that the measure be rejected ahead of any debate at the National Assembly. The motion was adopted by 270 votes against 265.

Macron’s centrist government doesn’t have a majority at parliament.

The government can now choose to send the text to the Senate for it to continue its difficult legislative journey. It can also ask a commission composed of seven senators and seven lawmakers from the National Assembly to find a compromise on the bill that would still require approval from both houses of parliament.

Speaking on national television TF1, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, who championed the bill for months, suggested he won't withdraw it.

“This text will continue its path in line with the Constitution,” he said, adding that a decision would soon be made by the government on the next step. He said he offered to resign after Monday's vote but Macron refused.

Far-right lawmaker Marine Le Pen said her National Rally group rejected the bill because it would instead have increased numbers of migrants coming to the country.

Conservative lawmaker Eric Ciotti, president of The Republicans party, said the text was not up to the “migratory challenge” which justified its rejection. Ciotti called on changes to the bill to put it back in line with a previous version adopted last month by the Senate, dominated by The Republicans.

Mathilde Panot, president of the hard-left “Rebel France” group at the National Assembly, welcomed the vote which she said will "spare the country two weeks of xenophobic and racist rhetoric.” She called on the government to withdraw the bill.

Advocacy organizations have criticized the measure as a threat to the rights of asylum-seekers and other migrants.

French anti-racism group SOS Racisme on Monday urged the government to withdraw the bill “which contributed to a tense political climate, weakened civil peace and damaged our country’s image abroad.”

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