Why everyone is talking about Kamala Harris’ birthplace

Unless you live in a social media silo (which many of us may do), you might have seen claims that if Joe Biden wins, Kamala Harris won’t be eligible to serve as president because her mother is from India and her father is from Jamaica. These posts also put forward the theory that if Biden wins, Harris will have to step aside to give way to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (via AP News). One Facebook post with this theory even triggered more than 2,000 shares.

A number of us may believe that U.S. citizenship isn’t automatically given as a birthright, but that isn’t the case today, and it wasn’t the case when Kamala Harris was born in Oakland, California in 1964 (via Los Angeles Magazine). Regardless of what nationality her parents were at the time of her birth, the Constitution’s Citizenship Clause in the 14th Amendment reads: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”

To put it plainly, Harris is a natural-born American citizen by virtue of the Constitution, because she was born in the United States.

Questions about Kamala Harris' eligibility aren't new

After she was named Joe Biden’s running mate, The Atlantic reported that Kamala Harris’ Wikipedia page was viewed nearly 8.6 million times. It also saw 295 edits — which included changes to her name that included an expletive — before an administrator turned on the “semi-protected” feature that limits the people who might be able to edit the page. The debate on Wikipedia then turned into a debate of Harris’ race, which spanned more than 19,000 words in less than 24 hours.

Questions about Harris’ eligibility for public office aren’t new. They began floating around in 2019, when she first announced that she was running for president. At the time, Harvard constitutional law professor Laurence Tribe told the Associated Press, “I can’t believe people are making this idiotic comment. She is a natural born citizen and there is no question about her eligibility to run.”

Kamala Harris is no different from a majority of Americans

Kamala Harris is not an original. History points out that America has always been a nation of immigrants. As far back as the 1500s settlers from France and Spain moved into what would become the United States. In 1607, the English established their first permanent settlement in Jamestown, Virginia. Immigration to America would continue into the early 20th century including religious refugees, indentured white Europeans, thousands of English convicts, economic immigrants from Germany and Ireland, as well as Asians seeking to benefit from the Gold Rush. Every influx of immigration would trigger resentment, because the new arrivals were seen as competition for jobs and resources.

Politicians who come from immigrant stock include President Donald Trump himself, whose grandfather moved from Germany in 1885 (via The Guardian). Vice President Mike Pence (via RTE) and Democratic Presidential hopeful Joe Biden both have ties to Ireland (via USAToday), as have 22 of the 45 presidents of the United States from both parties, and this list includes Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Regan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama (via Clinton House Museum).

In 2015, the country had 41 million immigrants, representing 13.1 percent of the population. Second generation Americans — that is, children who are born to immigrants — make up another 37.1 million people, or 12 percent of the population (via The National Academies Press).

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