The cabinet has said that a proposal to expel criminal foreigners would violate rights guaranteed in Swiss the constitution.
The rightwing Swiss People's Party gathered 211,000 signatures to trigger a nationwide vote on its initiative to expel foreigners who commit serious crimes or who abuse the social welfare system.
The government has put forward an indirect counter-proposal to amend the existing law on foreigners. The justice ministry says this proposal reflects some of the demands in the initiative but that it will safeguard the constitution and international law.
In particular, it says it will unify the practices between the different cantons and define the grounds on which foreigners can be expelled.
Meanwhile, a Senate committee rejected a People's Party proposal that would allow foreign-born Swiss who committed crimes or welfare abuse within ten years of gaining citizenship to be stripped of their passports. The equivalent committee in the House of Representatives narrowly accepted the proposal in August.