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Politifact: Kamala Harris is eligible to be president

kamala harris
A Facebook post claims that Kamala Harris cannot become President if Joe Biden was not able to serve his full term. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

*This story is reported by Ciara O'Rourke and Louis Jacobson for Politifact.

Claim: If Joe Biden can’t serve his full term, Kamala Harris “cannot by constitutional law become president.”


If your time is short: 

  • Kamala Harris’ father and mother were born in Jamaica and India, respectively, but she is a natural-born citizen and eligible to be president of the United States.

On Aug. 11, Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, announced his pick for the office of vice president he once held: Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif.

"I have the great honor to announce that I’ve picked @KamalaHarris — a fearless fighter for the little guy, and one of the country’s finest public servants — as my running mate," he  tweeted.

About a week prior,  some social media posts prematurely announced that Biden had tapped Harris for vice president — and declared that she was ineligible to take over the presidency.

"If crazy Joe cannot serve his full term, Kamala cannot by constitutional law become president," the post says. "She is an anchor baby, mother is from India, father is Jamaican, and neither were American citizens at time of her birth."

This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our  partnership with Facebook.) 

Harris’ father and mother were born in Jamaica and India, respectively. But Harris herself is a natural-born citizen and eligible to be president of the United States. 

Back when Harris was still a Democratic presidential candidate, we  fact-checked a similar claim: that she was ineligible to run for president. That’s wrong. 

"If you are born in the U.S., you are automatically a natural-born U.S. citizen under the constitution," Harvard Law professor Einer Elhuage told PolitiFact in 2019.

Harris was born in Oakland, Calif., a spokesperson for her campaign told us that year, "which is, was, and presumably will be, in the United States of America."

Harris  is 55 years old, two decades older than  the minimum age to become president.

Her father, Donald Harris, was born in Jamaica and immigrated to the United States after he got into the University of California-Berkeley, Kamala Harris wrote in her autobiography,  "The Truths We Hold: An American Journey." He is  an emeritus economics professor at Stanford University. At the end of a  bio on the school’s website, he notes his citizenship status. "Jamaica (by birth); USA (by naturalization)."

Kamala Harris’ mother, Shyamala Harris, was born in Chennai, India, and moved to California after graduating from the University of Delhi to pursue a doctorate in nutrition and endocrinology at Berkeley. She met Donald Harris at the university and the couple married, separating around the time Kamala Harris was five and divorcing a few years later, according to "The Truths We Hold."

Harris lived in California until she was in middle school, when she moved to Montreal after her mother was offered a teaching position at McGill University. She went to college at Howard University in Washington D.C.

The U.S. Constitution  says that "no person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible for the office of President."

Experts say that Harris meets the definition of "natural born citizen." Other federal laws and legal opinions to know for this fact-check: 

• The  14th Amendment, which says that "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."

•  8 U.S. Code § 1401, which says people born in the United States are "nationals and citizens."

• The  1898 Supreme Court decision in the Wong Kim Ark case, which ruled that people born on U.S. soil (with a few exceptions that aren’t relevant in Harris’ case) qualify for citizenship under the 14th Amendment. 

Sarah Duggin, a Catholic University law professor, told us: "Her birth in the United States, to someone other than a member of a foreign diplomatic corps or otherwise not subject to U.S. jurisdiction, makes her a U.S. citizen. … There is no reason to look at where her parents came from, how long her parents were U.S. residents before she was born, or where she was raised."  

Several other fact-checking organizations —  AFP and the  Associated Press among them — have also looked into these claims and agree that they are inaccurate.

We rate this Facebook post False.


VPM News is the staff byline for articles and podcasts written and produced by multiple reporters and editors.
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