FACT CHECK: Is Kamala Harris Not Eligible To Be President?

Emily Larsen | Fact Check Reporter

Jacob Wohl, a 21-year-old conservative activist, said in a tweet that Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris is not eligible to run for president.

“Kamala Harris is NOT eligible to be President. Her father arrived from Jamaica in 1961—mother from India arrived in 1960,” Wohl said Jan. 22. “Neither parent was a legal resident for 5 years prior to Harris’s birth, a requirement for naturalization.”

“Kamala was raised in Canada,” he added.

Verdict: False

Harris, a natural-born U.S. citizen, meets the presidential requirements laid out in the Constitution.

Fact Check:

Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution specifies that the president must be a natural-born U.S. citizen, at least 35 years of age and a resident within the U.S. for 14 years.

The framers of the Constitution may have feared “wealthy European aristocracy or royalty coming to America, gaining citizenship, and then buying and scheming their way to the presidency without long-standing loyalty to the nation,” reads a 2011 Congressional Research Service (CRS) report.

Harris is a U.S. citizen, born on Oct. 20, 1964 in Oakland, California. Her father, Donald J. Harris, is a native of Jamaica who taught economics at Stanford University. Her mother, breast cancer researcher Shyamala Gopalan Harris, was born in India and came to the U.S. to earn a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley.

After her parents’ separation, Harris moved with her mother and sister to Montreal in the mid-1970s and attended Montreal’s Westmount High School.

Harris returned to the U.S. for college. She earned a B.A. from Howard University in 1986 and a J.D. from the University of California Law School in 1989. After working for years as a prosecutor in California, Harris served as California’s attorney general from 2011 to 2016 and was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2016.

While Wohl did not argue that Harris was not born in the U.S., he did take issue with the fact that she spent part of her childhood abroad. “It’s not birtherism … It’s a question of whether the American People deserve to have a President that was Born and Raised in the Untied [sic] States,” Wohl tweeted.

He also suggested that the legal status of her parents affected her ability to become president.

Donald Harris’ Stanford biography states that he is a U.S. citizen, but it is unclear when he was naturalized. The Daily Caller News Foundation could not identify Shyamala Harris’ citizenship status. Harris’ senate office and presidential campaign did not respond to requests for comment.

The U.S., however, offers automatic citizenship to children born in the U.S. regardless of their parents’ immigration status, except for the children of foreign diplomats. (RELATED: Is The U.S. The Only Country With Birthright Citizenship?)

The 14th Amendment to the Constitution states 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.” An 1898 Supreme Court ruling, U.S. v. Wong Kim Ark, held that children born to immigrants residing permanently in the U.S. are natural-born citizens.

“There is no provision in the Constitution and no controlling American case law to support a contention that the citizenship of one’s parents governs the eligibility of a native born U.S. citizen to be President,” reads the 2011 CRS report.

President Donald Trump said in an Axios interview in October that he would try to limit birthright citizenship for children of illegal immigrants and other foreign parents. While some legal scholars argue that Trump may have the authority to limit birthright citizenship, most say that limits would require an act of Congress or a constitutional amendment.

Some commentators raised questions about presidential eligibility for former Republican presidential candidates Ted Cruz, who was born in Canada to a U.S. parent, and the late John McCain, who was born in the Panama Canal Zone while his father was in the military.

Wohl did not respond to a request for comment.

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Emily Larsen

Fact Check Reporter