THE BLOG

Everyone Put Down Your Pitchforks, Immigration Caps Do Not Make the Swiss Racist

12/02/2014 12:21 GMT | Updated 12/04/2014 10:59 BST

The votes are in and the Swiss have decided by a slim margin of 50.3% in support of a referendum proposal that brings back quotas on migrants from EU countries. This does have large implications for the future relationship between the EU and the extremely independent country, who has in the past chosen not to become a member of the EU. The European Commission is especially upset by Switzerland's choice and has spoken out against what they believe to be a huge mistake.

2014-02-10-swissvoting.jpg

AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus

As a dual citizen of Switzerland and America (I received my Swiss citizenship through bloodline), I don't condone racism and I am totally for immigration being a viable option. I also believe immigration caps should not be applied to asylum seekers and refugees, as those in imminent danger should be prioritized above all. It seems to me the fact that Switzerland is coming across as racist has more to do with some of the ungracious campaigns ('the "yes" campaign poster showing black legs striding purposefully over a Swiss flag' is definitely not a good look) than it does with its actual larger message.

I think we need to look at the bigger picture here...Switzerland is trying to do what it believes is in its best interest, and that for them means not having free flowing immigration. And if everyone was honest with themselves, we could all agree that from a rational standpoint, this logistically makes sense. Opening up the stable country could lead to it not being able to offer all the resources and social services necessary. Maybe Switzerland's motivation has a point, even if certain political parties have sullied that message with extremely offensive campaigns ('a 2009 referendum showing white sheep ejecting a black sheep from Switzerland' also not cool, guys).

So before we all lose our heads over what is at times not totally politically correct (but have we found a country that is politically correct?), let's consider the other side of the coin, which is preserving a country's well-oiled political and social machine. This country services both Swiss-born as well as the other quarter of the population who have migrated over from other lands. They are not xenophobic or racist, as so many are now claiming of the country, by choosing to have immigration caps. Racism would mean letting certain races in and not others. That's obviously not happening here since they are not singling any races out. Xenophobia would mean they dislike or fear foreigners. That's also not happening here, because 25% of their population come from foreign lands. Yes, there are campaigns by certain parties that are undoubtedly giving the bigger message a bad image. But we should be able to look beyond these extreme parties' antics that crop up in nearly every political debate.

2014-02-10-SteffenSchmidtEuropeanPressphotoAgency.jpg

Steffen Schmidt/European Pressphoto Agency

We already have enough countries in the EU that have been victims to the economic crisis, so let's consider whether this small country of 8 million people would be able to stay afloat in the way that it does if it were inundated with foreigners. And this is where everyone will chime in and say that Switzerland is extremely wealthy. Yes, this is true. But there have been other well-off countries that were thought of as invincible, until they proved not to be. This may sound cruel, but I don't believe it is wrong to have a cap on migrants, EU or not, and I think other EU countries should reconsider their migration laws. With all this said, we will just have to wait and see once the dust has settled what this decision means for the relationship between the EU and Switzerland.

Hopefully a compromise can be found that can both please the EU while still allowing Switzerland the right to make sovereign choices without pressure to just go along with what the EU is basically telling them to do. I am in no way even beginning to delve into the consequences this has for Switzerland. Because the immigration cap is not compatible with the bilateral agreement between Switzerland and the EU, this has the potential to render all other agreements housed within the larger agreement null and void. I'll be waiting at the edge of my seat to see what happens next, especially since I will be directly affected by the outcome.