Visitors or Citizens

During the Assembly meetings held in class, the consensus was made that metics who proved themselves worthy to Athens would be granted citizenship. However, this is not the case when looking at the events that unfolded in Athens following the Assembly meetings. Lysias and Thrasybulus supported the inclusion of metics and slaves as citizens in Athens society. Lysias argued that metics have proved worthy of citizenship. However, he claims that allowing all metics the right to vote would cause chaos at first. Lysias thinks that those who have been born in Athens and have committed their lives to ensure Athens’ success should be considered citizens. Not only did Lysias construct a convincing argument as to why metics should be granted citizenship, but Thrasybulus supported the objective as well. Thrasybulus proposed the idea of granting citizenship to those metics who served in the military. Without the help of the metics in the war, Athens would not be an existing city-state. In addition to granting metics citizenship, Thrasybulus thought slaves should be able to work their way up to the status of metic and eventually become a citizen. Later, he published a formal proposal to grant citizenship to those who aided in the fight against The Thirty. However, this proposal was voted down. As a result of the electorate debate within the Assembly, metics and slaves still lack the ability to become citizens of Athens. The debate of Athenian citizenship directly correlates to the argument in Congress as to whether Dreamers should be given the opportunity to become American citizens.

Pericles explains that Athens is open to all people; “We differ from our enemies in preparing for war. We leave our city open to all; and we have never expelled strangers in order to prevent them from seeing things” (Pericles). Although Pericles makes it clear that Athens is an open city, it does not mean that those who enter are considered citizens or have the same rights as citizens. Just as the United States is open to visitors and tourists, it does not mean all those who visit are granted citizenship. In early June 2019, the House “passed legislation to grant a path to citizenship to about 2.5 million immigrants” (Davis). Unlike Athens, the United States is allowing immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children to become citizens. According to the New York Times, there are 11 million  undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States (Davis). This is comparable to the vast number of metics and slaves living in Athens. However, metics and slaves could not achieve Athenian citizenship. With the legislation recently passed by the House, Dreamers may now have the opportunity to achieve American citizenship. 

After the class discussion about citizenship in Athens, it makes one believe that the United States can be an open country just like Pericles described Athens. However, it does not mean the U.S. has to grant citizenship to all illegal immigrants. The Democratic party controls the House of Representatives so it is likely that the Senate will turn down this legislation. It is likely that this legislation will be turned down just as Thrasybulus’ proposal to grant citizenship to metics was voted down. There are many parallels between the Athenian citizenship and the Dreamer citizenship debate. However, the United States will likely follow the path of Athens’ history and vote down the proposal to grant Dreamers citizenship. 

— Adam Davis

Word count: 568

Pericles Funeral Oration

One thought on “Visitors or Citizens

  1. Adam draws some strong comparisons between Athens and the United States with regards to the rights of immigrants to become citizens. The situations can be very similar in that both discuss was for metics and “Dreamers” to become citizens in their respective countries. One point I feel Adam failed to mention was the idea of both groups of people having the opportunity to work their way into citizenship. Adam states congress is likely to shoot down legislation allowing “Dreamers” to become citizens just like ancient Athens, but I feel there is a middle-ground that could be passed by both houses. The emphasis in our debate of giving metics and slaves the right to vote focused on their contribution to society with an emphasis on military service. Adam does not mention this connection to “Dreamers” in the United States and how a compromise may be found to allow them to earn their way to citizenship. While this was not passed in ancient Athens, it may be in the United States. The exact wording of the proposed legislature states “The American Dream and Promise Act of 2019 would provide current, former, and future undocumented high-school graduates and GED recipients a three-step pathway to U.S. citizenship through college, work, or the armed services” (“The Dream Act, DACA, and Other Policies Designed to Protect Dreamers.” AmericanImmigrationCouncil.org, American Immigration Council, 3 Sept. 2019). I feel this compromise is much more likely to get passed as it considers contribution to society as a way to earn citizenship.

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