France has no equivalent to the 14th Amendment, but the French
president, Nicolas Sarkozy, who likes to be known as Sarko the American,
also is fanning dangerous anti-immigrant passions for short-term
Last week, he proposed stripping foreign-born French citizens of their
citizenship if they are convicted of threatening the life of a police
officer or other serious crimes. Lest any voter miss the point that such
a law would be particularly aimed at Muslim immigrants, Mr. Sarkozy’s
interior minister, in charge of the police force, helpfully added
polygamy and female circumcision to the list of offenses that could
bring loss of citizenship.
Days earlier, Mr. Sarkozy promised to destroy the camps of the Roma and
send them back to where they came from, mainly Romania and Bulgaria.
Both countries are members of the European Union. Hundreds of thousands
of their residents, in France legally, now risk being swept up and
expelled in police raids.
And Mr. Sarkozy proposes denying automatic French citizenship to people
born in France if their parents are foreign and they have a record of
All of this in a country that has long proudly upheld the principle that
all French citizens — native-born or naturalized — are entitled to equal
treatment under the law. That applies to Mr. Sarkozy’s Hungarian-born
father and Italian-born wife, both naturalized French citizens, and
should apply to everyone else.
But immigrant-bashing is popular among nonimmigrant French voters and
Mr. Sarkozy has never been shy about doing it. He built his 2007
presidential campaign around his tough record (and inflammatory words)
as interior minister. Earlier this year, he ran a divisive campaign to
define French national identity because he wanted to fend off the far
right anti-immigrant National Front in regional elections. It didn’t work.
Now, with his political fortunes at a new low and the National Front
resurgent under younger leadership, he has gone further, worrying
traditional conservatives who still believe in the rights of man and the
equality of all French citizens. They are right to be concerned, and he
is recklessly wrong to ignore their cautionary advice.