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France Granting Residency to 7,000 Illegal Immigrants

The French government has announced it is offering permanent residency to nearly seven-thousand illegal immigrants who applied for a special waiver in recent months. The issue has been deeply controversial.

Some 30,000 illegal immigrants have applied for the once-only waiver since it was offered in June. In the end, less than a third of those who applied for it, 6,924 people to be precise, will be granted legal residency. That acceptance rate is pretty much in line with what Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy predicted a few months ago.

During an television interview Monday night, Mr. Sarkozy defended his policy.

Mr. Sarkozy said anybody looking at immigration files can see that France cannot welcome everyone. He said the government looked at each file to decide which applicants could integrate into society and which could not.

France's tough approach on immigration, which includes plans to sharply increase the number of illegal immigrants deported this year, echoes more stringent anti-immigration measures being put in place across Europe.

Nonetheless, Mr. Sarkozy's remarks sparked criticism Tuesday by pro-immigration activists like Jerome Martinez.

In an interview on Radio France, Martinez argued the government had failed to establish clear criteria for which illegal immigrants it would grant residency, and which it would reject. He said French officials were simply trying to fill an arbitrary quota.

Another advocacy group, Education Without Borders, says it will continue to protest the government's decision to expel immigrants. Threats of deporting illegal students have sparked strong protests on the part of many French teachers and parents, who have mobilized to keep the young immigrants in France.