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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Immigration "Reform" in Switzerland

Europeans tend to be more concerned about immigration than do Americans. This may seem paradoxical given the hard road for immigration reform in the U.S., but the U.S. is, after all, a nation of immigrants, whereas the European continent was, until quite recently, a region of emigration. The Swiss are the most recent Europeans to try to slow the flow, as Reuters (among many) reported:
Swiss voters on Sunday narrowly backed proposals to reintroduce immigration quotas with the European Union, Swiss television reported - a result that calls into question bilateral accords with the EU and could irk multinational companies.
While neutral Switzerland is not a member of the EU, its immigration policy is based on free movement of citizens to and from the EU, with some exceptions, as well as allowing in a restricted number of non-EU citizens.
In a nail-biting vote, 50.3 percent backed the "Stop mass immigration" initiative, which also won the required majority approval in more than half of Swiss cantons or regions, Swiss television said.
The outcome obliges the government to turn the initiative, spearheaded by the right-wing Swiss People's Party (SVP), into law within three years.
You can see the twist to this story. It is not immigrants from developing countries that are the explicit targets of this vote--it is other Europeans. Yet the excuse is the same--preserve the culture.
It reflects growing concern among the Swiss population that immigrants are eroding the nation's distinctive Alpine culture and contributing to rising rents, crowded transport and more crime. 
Net immigration runs at around 70,000 people per year on average. Foreigners make up 23 percent of the population of 8 million, second in Europe only to Luxembourg.
On the other hand, that's a lower percentage of foreign-born than we have here in California, as I have noted before.

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