Swiss voters Sunday decided 58.9 percent to 41.1 percent against requiring the immediate, automatic deportation of any foreign national convicted of two crimes within a decade, including minor offenses like traffic violations.
Switzerland already has a rule, passed in 2010, that deports nationals convicted of violent or sexual offenses.
The enforcement initiative defeated Sunday was introduced by the right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP) and was roundly criticized by several Swiss officials, including Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga, who belongs to the left-leaning Social Democratic Party.
The initiative would have affected not only recent immigrants and refugees. The country is home to some 300,000 people who were born to immigrant parents and are not Swiss citizens. They, too, could have found themselves booted out of their homeland for minor crimes.
The SVP considered the proposal common sense. The party controls 65 of the 200 seats in Switzerland’s Parliament, the most of any party by far, having captured an additional 11 seats in an October election. However, in Switzerland, many such proposals are voted on directly by the public.
The Social Democratic Party called Sunday’s result a “historic victory.”
Amnesty International’s Swiss arm was similarly enthusiastic. “This clear ‘no’ to the enforcement initiative was able to prevent greater damage than what has already been caused by the deportation initiative,” the organization wrote. “A large majority of voters were not taken in by the inhumane rhetoric of initiative’s supporters. The Swiss realized how dangerous it would be for everyone to suspend basic rights for a part of the population.”