The proposal put forward by the National Council's social security and public health commission is part of a plan the commission says will help forge more coherent legislation for people who live and work in Switzerland without proper papers – a group the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) estimates numbers from 58,000 to 105,000 people.
Under the motion put forward by a commission dominated by right-wing politicians, undocumented people in Switzerland would be stripped off their current access to certain welfare benefits and to health cover. Employers hiring people without the right to work in the country would face stiffer penalties.
But a section of the motion calling for processes enabling the sharing of information on undocumented people between government agencies – and citing education as an example –has come in for particular criticism.
If the proposal were to be implemented, it would become easier for teachers of school children with undocumented parents to report the status of those mothers and fathers to the authorities. Currently it is forbidden for schools and teachers to pass on this information.
“We teachers do not work for the migration department and definitely won't become snitches. Children and teenagers in Switzerland have a right to education that is completely independent of their migration status” Beat W. Zemp, president of the Swiss teacher's federation, said to Swiss daily the Tages-Anzeiger in response to the proposal.
Zemp said the move would “seriously damage” relations between parents, schools and teachers if teachers began sounding out their students about their parents' migration status.
Emilie Graff with the Swiss commission for youth affairs (EKKJ) has also spoken out against the plan, telling national broadcaster RTS that a worst-case scenario could involve undocumented people pulling their children out of school, or even blaming their children if they were reported to the police and later deported.
But the president of the National Council's social security and public health commission, Thomas de Courten with the Swiss People's Party (SVP), has defended the plans. He argues that critics risk hurting the interests of undocumented migrants by leaving them in an “irresponsible” legal limbo. He says the plan aims to tackle what is currently a completely unsatisfactory situation regarding this group.
The National Council plans to look at the proposal in the upcoming spring session, but left-wing politicians have already said they plan to attack it strongly during the parliamentary debate.