Firsthand View of France's Anti-Immigration Policies in Action

Dec 5, 2016

Among the stances that led to Donald Trump's election was his hard-line attitude towards immigration. And whether or not his promises to build a wall along the Mexican border, forcibly deport millions of immigrants and halt the entry of people of Muslim faith to this country ever come true, it is likely immigration policy will change in the United States in the years to come.

Nat Godley had a first-hand view of how anti-immigration policies have played out in western countries. Godley is an assistant professor of world history at Alverno College, and specializes in migration to and within Europe. He was in France last summer as a government crackdown on migrants played out. 

Godley was at a large refugee camp called Jaures, where about 2,500 people were living at the time, when police started an effort to remove migrants from the area. 

"They put almost all of these people onto buses, got rid of the tents and blankets and so on - that they left behind, they were not allowed to take with them - and bused them off to accommodations centers. That was actually a fairly calm incident, although there were still some episodes of violence there," says Goldey.

"What I saw later on though was, as this camp reformed as people came back because there was not really appropriate accommodation for them where they had been bused to," Godley continues. "As they came back the police decided to begin a campaign of on-going harassment and that often involved actual violence, really. You know, running at refugees, crowds of migrants, with riot shields and so on." 

"There really seemed to be no clear goal to this. It was intended to harass them, and the ways in which they moved them on was so openly purposeless, really," he says. "They would move them 200 yards down a boulevard, to a place where there was no better shelter, there was no accommodation provided after that first day. So it was very clear that it was purely for harassment to try to persuade them to maybe just disperse into the side streets around and be less visible." 

Godley wrote more about his experience in an essay on the migrant crisis in France featured in the December issue of Milwaukee Magazine