Senator Kamala Harris is Eligible to Be Vice President

Some are using the constitution to fuel race-based attacks on the vice presidential candidate’s eligibility.

Kamala Harris

There seems to be a lot of controversy regarding U.S. Senator Kamala Harris’ eligibility to run for vice president. This discussion was instigated by a Newsweek op-ed written by John C. Eastman, a law professor at Chapman University.

In the piece, Eastman uses the 12th and 14th amendments to discuss Harris’ eligibility. “The 12th Amendment provides that ‘no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States,’” Eastman writes. 

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“Article II of the Constitution specifies that ‘(n)o person except a natural born citizen…shall be eligible to the office of President.’ Her (Harris’) father was (and is) a Jamaican national, her mother was from India, and neither was a naturalized U.S. citizen at the time of Harris’ birth in 1964. That, according to these commentators, makes her not a ‘natural born citizen’ – and therefore ineligible for the office of the president and, hence, ineligible for the office of the vice president.”

As Eastman mentions, much of this eligibility talk and criticism comes from the fact that Harris’ parents were born outside of the United States. Her parents, Shyamala Gopalan, from India, and Donald J. Harris, from Jamaica, met while they were attending the University of California, Berkeley.

Her mother came to America to pursue her dreams of becoming a breast cancer researcher, and her father came to study economics. Eastman’s article has helped spark a birtherism discussion and created rhetoric for those who oppose Harris’ run as vice president. 

When asked about Harris eligibility, President Donald Trump did not reject the claims. “I have no idea if that’s right,” he said during a press conference in New Jersey. “I would have assumed the Democrats would have checked that out before she gets chosen to run as vice president.” Later on, after varying questions on Eastman’s article, Trump goes further: “If she’s got a problem, you would have thought that she would have been vetted by Sleepy Joe.”

Harris was born in Oakland, California on Oct. 20, 1964, according to the Associated Press, who obtained a copy of her birth certificate. Her years at Howard University and later the University of California, Hastings College of the Law prepared her for 30 years of public service.

In a recent interview with The Grio Harris says, “I’m very clear-eyed about the fact that they are going to engage, as you said, in what they have done throughout his administration, which is, let’s just be very candid and straightforward: They’re going to engage in lies. They’re going to engage in deception.”

This campaign to question a Black candidate’s eligibility is nothing new. Trump was vocal about his uncertainty of President Barack Obama’s legitimacy, often insisting confusion about Obama’s eligibility with his birther rhetoric. The good news is that under the 14th Amendment, Harris is completely eligible to serve as a vice president. 

Section I of the 14th Amendment clearly states: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United Stated and of the State wherein they reside.” So, according to this clause, Harris is completely eligible to run for vice president – even with immigrant parents.

Not only is Harris eligible to be vice president, but she is also eligible to be president. According to the Library of Congress, “As directed by the Constitution, a presidential candidate must be a natural born citizen of the United States, a resident for 14 years, and 35 years of age or older.”

Newsweek added an editor’s note to Eastman’s article on Aug. 14 acknowledging that the piece has been used to argue racist and xenophobic ideas, which the publication says was not the intention. It reads, in part: “The essay, by John Eastman, was intended to explore a minority legal argument about the definition of who is a ‘natural-born citizen’ in the United States. But to many readers, the essay inevitably conveyed the ugly message that Senator Kamala Harris, a woman of color and the child of immigrants, was somehow not truly American.”

It continues: “The op-ed was never intended to spark or to take part in the racist lie of Birtherism, the conspiracy theory aimed at delegitimizing Barack Obama, but we should have recognized the potential, even probability, that that could happen. We entirely failed to anticipate the ways in which the essay would be interpreted, distorted and weaponized.”

In short, Harris is good. She is completely eligible. 

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