President Donald Trump on Thursday resurrected the racially charged “birther” controversy he had fanned for years to question President Barack Obama’s eligibility for the presidency. His target this time is Kamala Harris, the first Black woman and Indian American to run for vice-president.
Since the announcement of her pick as the running mate of Joe Biden, some fringe conservatives have sought to question Harris’s eligibility arguing that while she was born in the United States, her parents — mother from India and father from Jamaica — were not naturalized citizens of the US at the time.
Therefore, they have argued, while Harris may not be a “natural born citizen” as required by the constitution to become president and, by extension, vice-president.
“I heard it today that she doesn’t meet the requirements, and by the way the lawyer who wrote the piece is highly qualified, very talented,” Trump told reporters at a briefing when asked about questions being raised about Harris’s eligibility as an “anchor baby”, a term used for children born to non-citizens during visits to the US aimed to help the rest of the family immigrate to the United States. Trump had referred to a column in the Newsweek that first made this argument.
I have no idea if that’s right,” he added. “I would have assumed the Democrats would’ve checked that out before she gets chosen for vice president.”
Instead of dismissing the clearly absurd theory, the president lingered. “Thats a very serious… they’re saying she doesn’t qualify because she wasn’t born in this country?” he asked.
When told Harris was indeed born in the United States and that her parents may not have been legal resident or naturalized citizens at the time, he said. “I don’t know about it. I just heard about it. I will take a look.”
Harris, 55, was born on October 20, 1964, in Oakland, California, which makes her a natural born citizen, eligible to run for the White House or any other officer in the US. Her parents had met as graduate students at University of California, Berkeley.
The Biden-Harris campaign had not responded to the president’s tacit support of the unfounded theory, to fan it, till hours after, but Maya Harris, the younger sister of Kamala Harris, did: “There are no gradations of birtherism. You’re either in or you’re out,” she wrote on twitter, joining a growing call for ignoring the attempt to resurrect the “birther” controversy.
Trump started the “birther” movement in 2011 when he first seriously considered a run for the White House. He began by questioning then President Barack Obama’s eligibility for the White House, alleging wrongly he was not born in the US. Obama was born in Hawaii but he felt compelled to release a long-form record of his birth.
Trump acknowledged he was wrong years later. But in intervening years, he used the same strategy to diminish Ted Cruz, the last of his primaries challengers.
Cruz was born in Calgary, Canada to father who was from Cuba and mother, who was a natural-born American citizen. Cruz lost the primaries and soon resurfaced as a strong support of President Trump.