2020 Democratic Vice Presidential Nominee | U.S. Senator from California
On August 11, Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, chose Kamala Harris to join his ticket as the vice presidential nominee. She is the first woman of color to carry this banner for a major party. Her selection as Biden’s running mate assures she will continue to be a central figure in the country’s immigration debate.
The daughter of a Jamaican immigrant father and an Indian immigrant mother, Harris is a first-generation American. After attending Howard University and obtaining a law degree from the University of California at Hastings, she began her public service as a deputy district attorney for Alameda County, which includes Oakland. She then served two terms as the district attorney for San Francisco before going on to become California’s attorney general in 2011. Five years later, she became only the second Black woman to be elected to the U.S. Senate, where her first floor speech included the declaration that “an undocumented immigrant is not a criminal.” Harris would later assert that illegal immigration is “a civil violation, not a crime.”
A prosecutor by trade, Harris is known for tough-on-crime positions (some of which she moderated or reversed ahead of her own presidential primary run), and for orchestrating large settlements between banks and homeowners in the wake of the 2007 housing crisis. But she also has a significant record on immigration: In 2010, as the San Francisco DA, she railed against an Arizona bill that would have required local law enforcement to act as federal immigration agents; and in 2012, as the state AG, she submitted a brief to the California Supreme Court in support of an undocumented immigrant seeking a law license.
As a representative of California, which has the highest number of DACA enrollees, Harris has been outspoken on protecting DREAMers; she opposed a 2017 end-of-year spending bill because it did not include a fix for DACA. During her own primary run for the Democratic presidential nomination, Harris was relatively moderate on immigration, giving full-throated support for undocumented immigrants in the U.S. while at the same time pressing for strong border security, saying, “I believe in border security. We need to have adequate border controls.” Her position on many essential immigration issues will undoubtedly come into sharper focus as the November election draws nearer.