4.03.2007

French Candidates Court Immigrant Voters

Vive l'immigrant?

France's presidential candidates are courting newly empowered immigrant voters.

Immigration is a hot topic in the hotly contested French presidential election. The issue is integrating France's ethnic Arabs and Africans, many of them Muslims – and also legal residents. If done right, France could be a European trendsetter.

France is not a perfect parallel for Europe. Its immigrants are multi-generational, stemming from the colonial era. Many are French citizens by now; about 3.5 million are legal residents (200,000 to 400,000 are illegals). Europe also has millions of Muslims in its midst, but Germany's ethnic Turks, for instance, arrived as guest workers. Most are not citizens.

And yet the challenges are similar whether it's the Netherlands or Bri­tain: clashes over religious dress and practice, over political extremism and violence, over economic and social opportunity.
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