Passionate and hardworking, Kamala D. Harris was sworn in as a United States Senator for California in January 2017. Her devotion to justice and political engagement stemmed from her mother, Shyamala, an Indian-American immigrant, scientist and civil rights activist. Her father is also an immigrant and activist, coming to the U.S. from Jamaica. The two met as students at the University of California, Berkeley.
Harris earned her Bachelor’s degree at Howard University and her law degree from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. She began her legal career in the Alameda County District Attorney’s office in California. She then served in the San Francisco District Attorney’s office and later the City Attorney of San Francisco’s office. In 2003, she was elected district attorney of San Francisco. She went on to serve as attorney general of California, winning elections in 2010 and 2014 for that position, before running for senator in 2016.
Not only did her career provide her with experience in the political field, but in her time as district attorney, Harris started the program “Back on Track” (BOT), equipping first-time drug offenders with the chance to gain an education and find employment, according to the Los Angeles Times.
As the first female South Asian-American and second African American senator, Harris’s concern for civil rights derive from a desire to advocate for those who can’t defend themselves. According to Harris’s personal website, her inspirations include Thurgood Marshall, former civil rights activist and Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court in 1961, and Constance Baker Motley, a civil rights lawyer for The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1956.
As reported by The New York Post, over the course of nearly two terms in office as junior senator of California, Harris’s priorities included defending California’s landmark climate change law, gaining a $25 billion establishment for California homeowners during the foreclosure crisis, and prosecuting gun, drug and human traffickers.
Regarding current issues such as COVID-19 and health care, Harris’s mission remains the same. As reported by PBS, Harris wishes to rid the healthcare system of bureaucracy in private insurance, and she believes that denying people healthcare due to their citizenship status is unacceptable.
Harris has supported giving monthly stimulus checks to struggling Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic and has a goal to end federal subsidies for fossil fuel production to net-zero carbon emissions by 2045, with carbon-neutral electricity by 2030.
When Harris served as California’s attorney general, Harris refused to defend Proposition Eight, the law that defined marriage as between a man and a woman, revealing her support for the LGBTQ+ community. Harris is also an avid supporter of stricter gun laws, including background checks of sellers and confiscating the license of any gun dealer who has broken the law.