Modern-day America and ancient Athens both have had non-citizens living among the recognized citizens. However, Athens had non-citizens that are legally allowed to live and work in the city. Many immigrants that come to America are illegal and have to hide that they are residing there. They are forced to find jobs that pay under the table to hide detection from law enforcement. Analyzing both of these successful civilizations makes me believe that the ancient Athenians knew what they were doing by establishing a class of workers that were not recognized as citizens, but were still able to contribute to the city.
Currently, the process to immigrate to the United States is long and difficult. Foreigners need a Green Card to live and work permanently in the United States. Many immigrants today are illegally in the United States because they never applied for a Green Card or their application is still being processed. An article in the Dallas Daily News claims “As of this month, it takes at least 22 years for people from Mexico to get a Green Card if they’re the married son or daughter of a U.S. citizen” (Dallas News). The current system takes too long to approve and a new system should be established that is more similar to the Athenians’.
The United States should implement a new class of residents similar to that of the Athenian metic that requires less paperwork to attain. The class should be made up of non-American citizens that are living and working in the United States. This class of workers would allow the people currently classified as illegal immigrants the opportunity to legally earn a living. Having more workers will help the United States economy. As an ancient Athenian once wrote, “For the poor, the popular, and the base, inasmuch as they are well off and the likes of them are numerous, will increase the democracy” (Excerpts from the Old Oligarch. II.). Conservatives believe immigration is bad for the country, but having more workers will lead to more prosperity for the country.
This class would differ from full citizenship in that these current day “metics” would not have access to all of the same social welfare programs as full citizens. The reason the United States should avoid giving generous welfare to non-citizens is that immigrants would take advantage of our system. By waiting to see if they can live on their own it would discourage the type of people that want to live off of the citizens that have paid taxes their entire lives in the United States.
A metic in modern-day America would not be permanently bound to their class. The immigrants should prove that they are not a burden to society by being able to support themselves without government handouts. Once the metic is self-sufficient, has lived in the United States for a certain amount of years, and has passed some sort of citizenship test he or she should be given full citizenship.
Participating in the Athenian Assembly in class has made me think about the ways my own country currently treats immigrants. Foreign-born residents of ancient Athens were huge contributors to the cities success, and it would be foolish for America not to follow suit and let immigrants contribute to society. The United States should consider policies such as allowing foreigners to come to live and work, and then become full citizens after some prerequisites are met such as stable income and having lived in the country for a certain amount of time.
Word Count~ 587
Solis, Dianne. “Why Don’t Mexicans Just Apply for Citizenship?” Dallas News, Dallas News, 24 Aug. 2019, http://www.dallasnews.com/news/immigration/2018/08/29/why-don-t-mexicans-just-apply-for-citizenship/.