Americans Helping Americans Abroad

The conference room at Reid Hall was fully packed with AAWE and AARO members anxious to hear Anne Lebreton speak about the just-dropped constitutional change to allow revocation of French citizenship for accused terrorists. 

Who is Anne Lebreton? She's a deputy mayor of the 4th arrondissement in Paris, in charge of families, exclusion, child and elderly protection and a vice-president of Nous Citoyens, which is part political party, part citizens for action movement. Most importantly, she's one of us. Her mother, long-time member of both AAWE and AARO, is American; her father was French. She grew up with a dual national mentality, nurtured by activities with AAWE that brought out the American side of her as she grew up in France. As she pointed out, when she was growing up, dual nationality was still fairly rare; it has now become more and more frequent.

Her mother's long commitment and service to associations became her example for community service and when her children started going to school, she was elected to the parents' committee for her school (similar to P.T.A.; in France there are two main associations and there are elections at each school). Through that activity, she became involved with the status of families without immigration papers whose children are in the schools. One thing led to another and she started volunteering at the La Cimade, an organization devoted to helping immigrants in France. Once these immigrants have the proper papers to reside in France, she encourages them to move on to citizenship.

A turning point came in 2010, when Nicolas Sarkozy, then President, made a speech in Grenoble in which he introduced the idea of revoking citizenship of naturalized citizens who became delinquent or attacked persons of authority (police, for example). It was the first time the concept that dual-nationals are somehow different, less worthy, than those who hold only French citizenship. All of the political left protested, along with many centrists and those on the right, from President Sarkozy's own party. This speech triggered Anne's political engagement and she joined the centrist Parti Radical, led by Jean-Louis Berloo. In 2012, she was the Parti Radical candidate in the legislative election. She did well, for a small party candidate, but did not win the seat. The Parti Radical changed leadership and joined the ranks of a larger group, U.D.I. Anne moved to Nous Citoyens, a movement of engaged citizens from the general population: working people, not professional politicians. She was elected to the Paris Municipal Council in 2014 and became a deputy mayor.

In November 2015, following the terrorist attacks in Paris, President Hollande, in the emotional moments afterwards, proposed the constitutional change to allow the revocation of citizenship of any dual national involved in terrorist activity. This goes farther than the Sarkozy proposal because it included those born French. The opinion poll on November 19 showed 94% approval. Anne was the first to react in horror to this proposition, on November 18, in the Huffington Post. She had 2000 likes the first day and 6000 by the next morning. People were taking notice. She was interviewed on Berbere TV. Her argument is, first of all, it creates a difference between "categories" of citizens, those who are French only and those who are different. Secondly, by saying "they no longer belong to us", France is not taking responsibility for these monsters that it raised and educated. It creates easy scapegoats for escaping responsibility. Lastly, there is no reason to believe the other country will take the terrorist from France. They die (nationality no longer makes a difference) or they survive to stand trial and are imprisoned. 

President Hollande withdrew the proposition on March 30, the day before the meeting. The issue remains important, though, as almost every other country has dual nationals and other countries might try the same sort of action against them. Anne recommended we read Benjamin Barber's article in the Atlantic, from 1992, "Jihad vs. McWorld".

A lively question and answer session followed Anne’s talk.