Switzerland Votes to Ease Citizenship for Third-Generation Immigrants – The New York Times
2017/02/14 Leave a comment
The posters seen in several cities and provinces featured two very similar young women: both born in Switzerland, educated in Swiss schools, now in their 20s and working full time in Swiss jobs. They even share the given name Vanessa.
The point, though, was the crucial way they differ. One Vanessa is a Swiss citizen, while the other is not, and is locked in a lengthy and expensive process to obtain citizenship even though her family put down roots in Switzerland two generations ago.
The posters backed a government-sponsored measure that would ease the path to citizenship for third-generation immigrants like the second Vanessa. And on Sunday, the measure was approved in a nationwide referendum.
The outcome went against the recent tide of right-wing populism and anti-immigrant sentiment in much of Western Europe. Just over 60 percent of votes were in favor, including majorities in 17 of the country’s 23 electoral cantons — a minimum of 12 are required to pass — despite a right-wing campaign that sought to stoke fears of Muslims infiltrating the country.
“We are quite surprised,” said Stefan Egli, a manager of Operation Libero, a politically independent group that campaigned in support of the initiative and organized the poster campaign featuring the two Vanessas, among others. Mr. Egli said he had thought the referendum would win the national popular vote, but he worried that more of the rural cantons would oppose the change.
Swiss law typically requires foreigners to be residents of the country for 12 years before applying for citizenship; after that they must undergo a series of tests and interviews to assess their suitability, and are judged by criteria that differ from one canton to another. Unlike the United States and some European countries, Switzerland does not grant automatic citizenship to children born on its soil.
The measure approved on Sunday will not change those basic rules, but will speed up and simplify the approval process, using uniform criteria, for foreigners under 25 whose parents and grandparents have permanent residence status in Switzerland. “These are people who are at home,” Simonetta Sommaruga, the federal justice minister, said in a statement explaining the government’s position on third-generation immigrants. “The only difference is they do not have a red (Swiss) passport.”
An assessment by Geneva University for the government’s department of migration found that just under 25,000 people could benefit from the changes. Most of them are Italian, it found, and nearly 80 percent are of European extraction.