Kamala Harris: 10 Major Achievements

Whether you are on the left or right side of the political aisle, it is an undeniable fact that Vice President Kamala Harris has carved quite a unique place in the annals of U.S. history.

In addition to Harris being the first African-American and first Asian American to become vice president of the United States, she has attained an impressive array of feats in her distinguished public and political career.

Achievements of Kamala Harris

Achievements of Kamala Harris

World History Edu present to you 10 most notable achievements of Vice President Kamala Harris.

As District Attorney of San Francisco, Harris always took a tough stance on serious crimes

In the early 2000s, San Francisco’s murder rate per capita was way above the national average. Following through on her campaign promise, Harris and her team at the District Attorney’s Office in San Francisco needed just six months to clear 27 of the 74 homicide cases that she inherited when she took office. Fourteen of those cases went into plea bargain, while 11 went to trial. Of those 11, Harris was able to secure nine convictions, while the remaining two had hung juries.

Between 2004 and 2006, Harris obtained 87% conviction rate for homicides and 90% conviction rate for felony gun violations. She also called for higher bail for criminal defendants in gun-related crimes, as she reasoned that low bail provided a huge incentive for people to commit crimes.

Created the Gun Crime Unit during her tenure as San Francisco District Attorney

Harris tenure as the District Attorney for San Francisco (2004-2011) saw her push for a minimum 90-day sentence for persons found possessing concealed or loaded weapons. Her tough stance on gun crime allowed her to slap felony charges on people found possessing assault weapons.

Furthermore, she obtained prison terms for criminals that possessed or used assault weapons. She went in for the maximum penalties for gun-related crimes in order to serve as a strong deterrent measure.

Other measures that she used to quell gun violence in the district included calling for a local legislation that banned gun shows at the Cow Palace. Harris, Police Chief Heather Fong, and mayor Gavin Newsom were of the view that those gun shows increased homicide rates and the proliferation illegal guns in San Francisco.

Kamala Harris

Achievements of Kamala Harris | In 2003, Harris defeated then-incumbent D.A. of San Francisco Terence Hallinan to become the first woman of color and first person of color to occupy the D.A. position in San Francisco

Promoted the rights of LGBT and marriage equality

During Kamala Harris’ tenure as District Attorney for San Francisco (2004-2011), she did not support the 2008 California constitutional amendment that was aimed at banning same-sex marriage.

She took her protest all the way up to the nation’s highest court, the Supreme Court, where she filed an amicus brief. In 2013, the renowned attorney made very good arguments about how California’s Proposition 8 would infringe upon the rights of the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) community in the state. Following a 5-4 ruling at the Supreme Court, the ban on same-sex marriages in California was lifted in summer that year.

As attorney general of California, Harris was one of the leading figures in California that supported ban on gay and trans panic defense used by perpetrators of hate crime against the LGBT. Kind courtesy to her efforts, the state of California passed that legislation, making California the first state in our nation to have legislation against gay panic defense.

Vice President Kamala Harris

Harris at San Francisco Pride Parade (2019)

Brought down the Recidivism rate in San Francisco

During her tenure as chief prosecutor in San Francisco, Harris received enormous praise from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) for her cost effective recidivism program that saw hundreds of first time low-level crime offenders get a second chance at making their lives better. The DOJ was of the opinion that it cost the tax payers more when those sought of cases are adjudicated and then offenders housed in prisons.

In partnership with a number of civil rights activists, Harris helped create San Francisco Reentry Division, which covered first-time nonviolent offenders between the ages of 18 and 30. The initiative only covered non-weapon and non-gang related crimes. Under the “Back on Track” initiative, non-violent juvile offenders were allowed to defer sentencing in exchange for a guilty plea.

After going through 220 hours of community service, a drug test, securing a high-school-equivalency diploma, and a steady employment, the offender’s case was dismissed and their records expunged.

San Francisco recidivism rate was so impressive that other prosecutor offices in Atlanta, Baltimore and Philadelphia took a page from Harris’s re-entry program. It also received a thumbs up from the National District Attorneys Association.

Took a tough stance on environmental pollution

Harris has always been a vocal advocate for sustainable business practices that auger well for the environment. This was evident when she successfully got a $44 million dollar settlement following the Cosco Busan oil spill. The devastating 2007 oil spill saw about 54,000 US gallons of heavy fuel oil spill into the San Francisco Bay.

As the chief prosecutor of the state of California, she vigorously carried out investigations into the 2015 Refugio oil spill, indicting operators of the pipeline on numerous criminal charges.

When it was revealed that carmaker Volkswagen AG lied about the carbon emissions on its diesel cars, Attorney General Kamala Harris was able to secure close to $15 billion in settlement from the company.

Harris was extremely successful in reducing truancy rate of school children in California

Achievements of Kamala Harris | Harris’s office pushed for penalties such as fines of more than two thousand dollars) and a year in jail for parents of chronically truant students| Image: Harris visiting Peterson Middle School in 2010

During her tenure as the District Attorney of San Francisco (2004-2011), she considered school children truancy a public safety issue, particularly students in elementary schools in the district. Harris opined that there was an unshakable evidence to show that majority of prison inmates and homicide victims had in some way a history of dropping out of school or high truancy rate.

She met with parents of students, particularly those in high-risk schools, in a bid to convince to encourage those parents of instilling high discipline in their kids so bring down the truancy rate. In letters to parents, Harris explained the legal consequences that could befall parents of chronically truant students. Her office pushed for penalties such as fines of more than two thousand dollars) and a year in jail for such parents.

Those efforts of hers paid off tremendously, as in just a year, from the year 2008 to 2009, the truancy rate dropped by about 23 percent.

Protected the rights of homeowners in California

In 2011, she created the Mortgage Fraud Strike Force to tackle the dire foreclosure crisis in the state of California. The force took on big mortgage companies like Wells Fargo, Ally Bank, and JPMorgan Chase, securing better terms for homeowners in California. Harris’ efforts helped protect homeowners against brutal foreclosure by the power players in the industry.

Both “dual-tracking” (modification and foreclosure at the same time) and robo-signing were banned. The latter refers to improper foreclosures practice of mass production of false and forged execution of mortgage satisfactions, affidavits and other documents related to mortgage foreclosures.

Reined in on activities of violent criminal organizations

Throughout her tenure as Attorney General of California (2011-2017), Harris embarked on a rigorous investigations and prosecutions of transnational criminal organizations. She extensively reined in on the activities of criminal organizations like Tijuana Cartel, the Vagos Motorcycle Club, the Crips, and the Mexican Mafia.

Kamala Harris was able to deprive those violent criminal organizations from gaining access to ill-gotten monies through fraud schemes, human trafficking, drug trafficking, and smuggling. She coordinated extensively with law enforcement officers across the state to cease lethal weapons, drugs, and cash from those organizations. For example, she was able to curtail the activities of the huge money-laundering network in the Los Angeles Fashion District in 2014.

Starting around 2012, Harris stepped up her office’s collaboration with the Attorney General of Mexico – Merisela Morales. The goal was to deploy state of the art technologies to make violent crimes unrewarding for those gangs entering the U.S. from Mexico.

Achievements of Kamala Harris | Image: Harris, middle, and LAPD chief Charlie Beck, left, marking the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Active member of the U.S. Senate (2017-2021)

As vice president of the United States, Kamala Harris also serves as the ex officio President of the U.S. Senate, allowing her to cast a tie-breaking vote. But did you know that she was an active U.S. Senator from California for four years?

Following the announcement by Senator Barbara Boxer not to run for re-election in 2016, Harris announced her intention to run for the senate seat. She won the California Democratic Party convention with 78% of the votes; thereafter she faced Democrat Loretta Sanchez in the general election. Buoyed on by the endorsement from then-U.S. President Barack Obama and then-Vice President Joe Biden, Harris defeated Sanchez, claiming 60% of the vote.

Her four-year stay as US Senator from California saw her vehemently oppose the Trump administration’s “Muslim ban”, which banned citizens from several Muslim-majority countries in Africa and the Middle East from coming into the U.S. for ninety days.

Harris is most remembered for extensively questioning William Barr, then-U.S. Attorney General, over Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. In addition to being on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Harris also served on the Committee on the Budget, Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, and Select Committee on Intelligence.

She was also not afraid to reach out to politicians on the other side of the aisle to work on some very crucial bipartisan bills, most famously the workplace harassment bill.

Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris, left, was sworn into the U.S. Senate by then-Vice President Biden, right, on January 3, 2017

Kamala Harris’ vote in the U.S. Senate was crucial in getting the 2021 COVID-19 Stimulus Package passed

As vice president of the United States, Kamala Harris is also the ex officio President of the U.S. Senate. Article 1, Section 3, Clause 4 of the U.S. Constitution allows her to cast a vote in the U.S. Senate whenever there is a tie. She used this to great effect in 2021, when she cast a tie-breaking vote to help carry the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 across the finish line.

Also known as the COVID-19 Stimulus Package, the act is aimed at injecting $1.9 trillion into the American economy, providing immense relief to all Americans whose lives were upended by the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kamala Harris quotes

Other remarkable accomplishments of Kamala Harris

Here are a few more accomplishments of Kamala Harris:

  • In January 2011, Kamala Harris became the first woman and first African American to be elected Attorney General of the State of California (2011-2017). She faced and defeated Los Angeles County district attorney Steve Cooley in the general election held in November, 2010. Californians reelected her in November 2014 after they were impressed with her strong stance on protecting consumers’ privacy rights and numerous criminal justice reforms.
  • As California’s Attorney General (from 2011-2017), Harris worked assiduously to reduce implicit bias in policing and the use of deadly force in her state.
  • In 2006, she was instrumental in getting California to pass A.B. 1160, also known as the Gwen Araujo Justice for Victims Act. Aside from educating state prosecutors about gay panic strategies defendants use, the act also educates the jury on how to put aside bias, prejudices or public opinions when making decisions.

Quick Facts about Vice President Kamala Harris

Facts about Kamala Harris

Full name at birth: Kamala Devi Harris

Birthday: October 20, 1964

Place of birth: Oakland, California, U.S.

Parents: Shyamala Gopalan Harris and Donald Jasper Harris

Sister: Maya Harris

Husband: Douglas Emhoff (married in 2014)

Education: University of California – Hastings College of the Law (Juris Doctor in 1989); Howard University (graduated in 1986 with a BA in political science and economics); Westmount High School in Westmount, Quebec, Canada (1981); Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Primary School

Bar:  Admitted to the California Bar in June 1990

Political party: Democratic

Elected offices: 49th Vice President of the United States (2021- ); U.S. Senator from California (2017-2021); 32nd Attorney General of California (2011-2017); 27th District Attorney for San Francisco (2004-2011)

Notable Accomplishments: America’s first female and first African-American vice president; First female African-American Attorney General of the State of California

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