Kamala Devi Harris is the second African-American woman to take office as a United States Senator for California. Harris took her oath in 2017 and made history as the first South Asian-American senator. This paper will provide a snapshot into the office life of a United States Senator by outlining the job description of a senator, public positions held by Kamala Harris, the three issues she is currently involved in, and lastly explore questions regarding accountability for Senator Harris.
- As a public political figure, a United States Senator’s job must be diverse in order to serve the nation. The key components of a senator’s job are representing the constituents, inform the public, serve on committees, and introduce legislation. The senator is the voice of the people; therefore, Harris is tasked with taking in the concerns of the people in their district and coming up with solutions to fight for legislation that will solve the problem pertaining to the district. Keeping the public informed is another crucial part of the senator’s job. A senator must actively engage the public by holding press conferences to share necessary information and make in-person visits to schools and various organizations to provide transparency on the legislative process. Senators are to serve on various Senate committees that has a central focus on hot issues like health or education as an example. Senators are to meet with selected groups or lobbyists and hear their point-of-views. The senator then will use this information to discuss new bills or propose amendments to existing laws. Moreover, it is important that a senator garner publicity and support for proposed laws they want to pass. To bolster this step, the senator and their team will use constituents’ inputs and research in order to solidify their proposal and enact laws to for the benefit of the citizens.
- The following is the chronological list of public positions held by Senator Harris:
- Deputy District Attorney for Alameda County, CA from 1990-1998
- Managing Attorney of the Career Criminal Unit of the San Francisco D.A office from 1998-2000
- Lead Attorney of the San Francisco City Attorney’s Division of Family and Children from 2000-2003
- District Attorney for San Francisco from 2003-2010
- Attorney General for the State of CA from 2011-2015
- United States Senator from 2016-present
- The three issues Harris is currently involved in is protecting DACA recipients, improving education, and earned-income tax credit reform for the poor.
The first issue Senator Harris is currently dealing with is President Trump’s move to abolish the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals act created by the Obama administration. DACA is designed to protect over half a million undocumented immigrants who has been in the United States since childhood. DACA was enacted after multiple rejections by Congress of the DREAM Act. DACA allows existing illegal immigrants to come out of the shadow and become recognized by law.
Senator Kamala Harris has immersed herself as a staunch defender of DACA. Harris and her peers have visited immigration detention facilities and met with DREAMERS caught in limbo due to their illegal status. Harris proposed a legislation called Detention Oversight Not Expansion (DONE) Act in an effort to improve the environments of existing ICE detention centers and prevent growth of space for new centers. Harris also created the REUNITE Act (Reunite Every Unaccompanied Newborn Infant, Toddler, and other Children Expeditiously) to ensure that many displaced families are reunited.
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The second issue Senator Harris is working on is improving the education for children in the United States. Harris discovered that there is a connection between school absenteeism and incarceration rates via a statewide study of elementary school truancy. According to one of the data, more than 50% of the inmates booked for various crimes were not able to read past the second grade level. One such case is that of a teenage boy convicted in 2011 of selling drugs in the streets had dropped out of school since the age of 13.
To resolve the truancy issue and ensure the future of school children, Harris and the California Department of Justice are collaborating with school districts to introduce best systems for improvement of school attendance. There is sign of progress with almost 100% of districts confirming they’ve made changes to their attendance policies. However, a statewide long-term system is needed for greater tracking purposes.
The third issue Senator Harris is reform of the IRS income tax credit for low-to-moderate families. The saying goes that “the rich gets richer and the poor gets poorer”. The issue of a disappearing middle class has long been predicted and analyzed. The most recent example can be seen from 2007 to 2009 where the housing market crisis plunged the American economy into recession. The disparity between the rich and the poor widened as a result. In 2008, the rich top 1 percent saw their pocket book drop in the stock market arena but their overall income increased. Whereas, the poor families were hit the hardest due to high unemployment.
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In 2018 Senator Kamala Harris unveiled her initiative called the LIFT Act which is designed to increase tax credits for poor income families. The LIFT Act revamps the current earned-income tax credit model by granting an additional $3000 per year for single parent filing taxpayer or $6000 for joint filers. The add-ons will be stopped once the taxpayer’s income hits the $100,000 annual mark.
- The question that I would pose to Senator Harris is:
- “I love your LIFT Act proposal. However, the bill is receiving mixed reactions from your peers and Congress has yet to approve the bill. How do you plan on addressing or make changes to the bill to include families who don’t work and therefore doesn’t receive earned income credit?”
- “How to plan on getting enough votes for your bill to pass?”
- “What will you do if the House rejects your revisions?”
- Stamenkovska, Maja. “What Is the Job of a Senator?” The Borgen Project, 10 Jan. 2018
- “Kamala D. Harris.” Contemporary Black Biography, vol. 64, Gale, 2008. Biography in Context
- Penichet-Paul, Christian. “Dream Act of 2017 Bill Summary.” National Immigration Forum
- Aguirre, Abby. “Dreaming Big.” Vogue, vol. 208, no. 4, Apr. 2018, p. 198. EBSCOhost
- Owens, Donna M. “An Immigration Nightmare.” Essence, vol. 49, no. 5, Oct. 2018, p. 94. EBSCOhost
- Shapiro, Sarah. “The Civil Right to Education.” Kamala Harris, 28 June 2016
- Truancy Report Fact Sheet 2015, Government, oag.ca.gov
- Peck, Don. “Can the Middle Class Be Saved? (Cover Story).” Atlantic, vol. 308, no. 2, Sept. 2011, p. 60. EBSCOhost
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