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When intimate family lives meet public policies: Chinese irregular migrant parents and French child psychiatrist faced with the ‘Illness Clause’

Presentation in seminair of Asian Research Center for the Intimate and Public Spheres (ARCIP), directed by Emiko Ochiai

21 novembre 2017

Kyoto University, Japon


Speaker: Simeng WANG


The purpose of this communication is to present the childcare and child protection systems in France from the case of Chinese families immigrated in Paris. By focusing on the Chinese irregular migrants who are parents of sick children - met in child psychiatry services in Parisian region during an ethnographic fieldwork carried out between 2010 and 2014 -, I analyze the social uses of law by Chinese parents and the processes of their decision-making, to apply (or not) for residence permits for medical reasons in France. I also investigate how healthcare professionals perceive those irregular migrant parents, and how these medical staff are involved in the migration policy and child protection law’s implementation. Situated on the borders of intimate family lives and public policies, those healthcare givers evaluate medically, morally but also politically migrant parents. 

Ethnographic materials conducted on the two sides of the “illness clause” in the management of applications for residence permits – doctors as well as applicant parents – show that what is considered as stigma can become a resource for irregular migrants to facilitate their access to legality. Because of the parents' anticipation in order to make use of the law, they are sometimes considered as “strategists” in the eyes of child psychiatrists. After following these migrants in their care itinerary and migration trajectory over a relative long period of time, the ethnographic work has enabled me to analyze the temporal evolution of the moral issues involved in regularization for medical reasons. Among the parents concerned, there is an appropriation process of using a child’s medical monitoring as an administrative resource. At the intersection of medical and migration uncertainties, some parents are able to move from a regularization decision for medical reasons to a return to their home country, likewise for medical reasons. When those families are managed by “border guard” doctors, they are able to self-manage their relation to the borders between their countries of origin and their host countries.

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