France: The Day Without Immigrants

LA_JOURNEE_SANS_IMMIGRES_-_24H_SANS_NOUSMany observers and actors of the French political scene suspect a hidden agenda behind the “national identity” debate launched by President Nicolas Sarkozy and his Minister of Immigration, Integration, National Identity and Solidary development [Fr], Eric Besson. The tightly defined government initiative was entrusted to the prefects, the state's local representatives.

Opposition members counter-attacked, with Martine Aubry, leader of the Socialist Party, saying at a meeting in Grenoble that President Nicolas Sarkozy was embarrassing France by opposing National Identity to Immigration.

And anyway, what sense does it make to call 2nd or 3rd generation citizens immigrants?

Remembering the Great American Boycott in the U.S., a one-day boycott of schools and businesses by immigrants, both legal and illegal, of mostly Latin-American origin that took place on May 1, 2006, a group or “collectif”, was created earlier this month, under the title : La journée sans immigrés – 24 heures sans nous (The Day without migrants – 24 hours without us), which is scheduled for March 1, 2010. The group's manifesto is featured on its website [Fr], and Facebook groups have been set up in 10 regions so far. There is also a blog and a forum.

The manifesto begins with these words:

Nous, femmes et hommes, de toutes croyances, de tous bords politiques, et de toutes couleurs de peaux, immigrés, descendants d’immigrés, citoyens conscients de l’apport essentiel de l’immigration à notre pays, en avons assez des propos indignes tenus par certains responsables politiques visant à stigmatiser ou criminaliser les immigrés et leurs descendants. Rappelons qu’un immigré est celui qui est perçu comme tel par les autres au-delà même de ses origines. Nous voulons nous réapproprier et réhabiliter ce terme devenu péjoratif par la force de l’instrumentalisation politique.

We, women and men, of all creeds, political positions and skin color, immigrants, descendants of immigrants, citizens who are aware of the essential contribution of immigration to our country, have had enough of the disgraceful remarks by some political officials, aiming at branding or criminalizing immigrants and their descendants. Let us recall that an immigrant is the one who is perceived as such by other people, even beyond his own origins. We want to reclaim and restore to favor this term, which has been made derogatory by its use as a political tool.

Asked in a TV interview, quoted on Le Blog de Rose Blanche, Peggy Derder, vice-president of the “Day without Migrants” Group, explained [Fr]:

Notre collectif appelle les immigrés, descendants d'immigrés et citoyens conscients de l'apport essentiel de l'immigration à ne plus participer à la vie économique de la Cité pendant 24 heures. Ne pas travailler peut prendre plusieurs formes: faire grève, poser une journée de RTT ou de congé… On appelle également à ne pas consommer : ne pas aller au Mc Do, ne pas faire de shopping etc. Par cette absence, nous voulons marquer la nécessité de notre présence. En agissant sur le levier économique, on veut montrer que les immigrés sont une richesse au sens propre et figuré, des éléments moteurs de l'économie et de la société.

Our group calls immigrants, descendants of immigrants and citizens who are aware of the essential contribution of immigration to stop for 24 h taking part in the economic life of the nation. Not working can come in several ways : go on strike, take a one day RTT or vacation… The call is also to refrain from consumption : don't eat out at Mc Donald's, don't go shopping etc. Through this absence, we want to mark the need of our presence. By acting upon the economic levers, we want to show that immigrants are an asset, in the literal as well as figurative sense of the word, driving elements for economy and society.

The initiative quickly won support from a large part of the political spectrum. Center-wing activist MIP did not want to be outdone, and was linked to by left-side blogger Intox 007:

Alors, oui, si cette journée est l'occasion de montrer aux hypocrites que de nombreux jobs (et pas forcément ceux en bas de l'échelle) sont exercés par des immigrés, vocable réducteur et objet d'attaque ignobles. Et que ces citoyens là sont aussi dignes que le né-ici, mais qu'ils sont plus l'objet de mépris, et que cela doit être combattu.

Well yes, if this Day is an opportunity to show to the hypocrites that lots of jobs (and not necessarily those at the bottom of the ladder) are, [to use a simplistic term] held by immigrants [who are] the object of disgusting attacks. And that those citizens are as worthy as those born here, but are more despised, and that needs to be fought against.

Demain le nouveau Congo Brazzaville also happily relayed the message, as well as Algerian news forum city DZ.

However, there are also dissonant voices, and not only where they are to be expected.

Merle moqueur (“Mocking bird”) is fed up with This- and That Days, and she sarcastically warns against any misunderstanding of the “without Immigrants” motto :

Ah, ça nous manquait, la journée sans immigrés. Voilà une idée de gauche qu'elle est bonne , fédératrice, porteuse de lien social, et pas du tout nunuche. Voilà une formulation qui plaira à certains. Eteins ton ordinateur, prends ton flingue, monte dans le bus et va jusqu'à la cité des Primevères. Il n'y a plus de bus ? Il a brûlé ? Arrête tes conneries réactionnaires, camarade, et marche un peu, ça te fera du bien. Va chez les Noirs et tire dans le tas, c'est la journée sans immigrés, t'as le droit.

Ah, this is something we were missing, the day without immigrants. Look at what a great  left-wing idea–unifying, linking society, and not at all silly. Here is a wording that will suit some people. Switch off your computer, get your gun, board the bus and get out at the Daisies development.  No bus any more ? It burned down ? Stop your reactionary bullshit, mate, and walk a little, it will do you good. Go to the Blacks’ place and fire into the crowd, it's the Day without immigrants, you are allowed to.

And why the 1st of March, so far ahead ? Back to the manifesto :

Le 1er mars 2005 est entré en vigueur le «code de l'entrée et du séjour des étrangers et du droit d'asile» (CESEDA), plus communément appelé le code des étrangers. Cette loi symbolise une conception utilitariste de l’immigration, en d’autres termes, une immigration choisie sur critères économiques. Nous ne pouvions trouver de meilleur jour pour appeler à « une journée sans immigrés ».

The 1st of March 2005 was the day the “code of foreigners’ entry and stay and asylum right” came into effect. This law symbolizes an utilitarian conception of immigration, in other words, an immigration based on economic requirements. We couldn't have picked a better day to call for “a Day without immigrants”.


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