Opinion Face it. Third generation immigrants are integrated

Switzerland should recognise the rights of young people born and raised here and who are well integrated into Swiss life. Adrian Wüthrich, president of trade union umbrella group Travail Suisse, believes facilitated naturalisation is needed for third-generation foreigners.

By Adrian Wüthrich

On February 12, Swiss citizens will decide whether young immigrants and third-generation foreigners should be granted a simplified naturalisation procedure.

The facilitated process would not be automatic as applicants would have to demonstrate their interest and apply before they turn 25. Moreover, the criteria for eligibility is strict, limiting the amount of people would could apply.

Adrian Wüthrich has been president of Travail.Suisse since 2015. A member of the Swiss Socialist Party, he is also part of Bern’s cantonal parliament.

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But in order to better understand the issues at stake, it’s important to look at who these young third-generation foreigners are, and how they and society as a whole will benefit if voters say yes at the polls on February 12.

The constitutional change under consideration only concerns young people born in Switzerland, and whose parents and grandparents have also lived in Switzerland. These young people and their parents must have completed five years of compulsory schooling and hold a ‘C’ permanent resident permit.

According to a recent study from the University of Geneva, Italians would be the most-affected by this change, along with people from the Balkans, Turkey, Spain and Portugal. These immigrant grandchildren, born in Switzerland, are fluent in a national language. Having studied and obtained diplomas in Switzerland, their professional and social futures are certainly here, too. As such, these third generation immigrants don’t need to prove they are integrated, rather it should be recognised. And especially as their links to their grandparents’ homelands are practically non-existent or less important than their ties to Switzerland.

Therefore, it would be unfair to subject Swiss-born grandchildren to the same naturalisation conditions as their parents and grandparents, whose history and non-migratory background differs. That is why simplifying the process to eliminate hearings to prove that already-integrated people are integrated is a necessary and right step forward.

Initiating a federal process for facilitated naturalisation of third generation foreigners will make it possible to treat everyone equally, regardless of their canton of residence.

According to the University of Geneva study, 25,000 people are likely to meet the third generation facilitated naturalisation criteria. These people live in Switzerland and will no doubt stay there. It is therefore essential to recognise them as legally belonging to Switzerland. Recognising them presents an opportunity for society, since they are integrated people who form the social and professional fabric of a prosperous Switzerland.

Let us not forget that their parents and grandparents also helped build up Switzerland as we know it today. Look at the history of seasonal workers. Recognition also grants these people civil rights, making it possible to widen the political participation of the population and strengthen the democratic system.

Betting on the youth of today is also betting on the future of Switzerland. For all these reasons, Travail.Suisse recommends voting ‘yes’ on February 12.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of swissinfo.ch.

swissinfo.ch publishes op-ed articles by contributors writing on a wide range of topics – Swiss issues or those that impact Switzerland. The selection of articles presents a diversity of opinions designed to enrich the debate on the issues discussed.


Translated from French by John Heilprin, swissinfo.ch

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