On Leadership
Video | PostLeadership | FedCoach | | Books | About |
Exploring Leadership in the News with Steven Pearlstein and Raju Narisetti

Kathryn Kolbert

Kathryn Kolbert

Kathryn Kolbert, a public-interest attorney and journalist, is the Director of the Athena Center for Leadership Studies at Barnard College, an interdisciplinary center devoted to the theory and practice of women's leadership.

Cheap solutions to complex problems

Q: No matter what you may think about the wisdom or legality of Arizona's immigration law, its proponents have succeeded in putting immigration enforcement back at the top of the national political agenda. Is this an example of "leading up," providing leadership on an issue where you have responsibility without authority?

Thank you, Arizona? Absolutely not. This is a case of state legislators passing a clearly unconstitutional law in order to appease a vocal constituency. They are rattling their proverbial sabers rather than grappling with the difficult and complex issues that surround immigration. Too often, this happens with hot-button, divisive issues, such as affirmative action, gun rights, abortion, religion in the public square.

It is true that Arizona legislators have succeeded in promoting their issue (and themselves) but only by further polarizing the debate and imposing an unworkable policy at the expense of a rationale and civil discussion necessary for a lasting solution. This is not "leading up" nor leading at all.

By Kathryn Kolbert

 |  July 13, 2010; 3:31 PM ET
Category:  Political leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: What constituents want | Next: On Leadership: Zappos.com CEO Tony Hsieh on who he won't hire


Please report offensive comments below.

I am totaly confused by all the BS that goes on about this Arizona Law. I am upset how people call it unconstituional and racially(?) motivated. Politicians and people like Kathryn Kolbert do nothing to ease the pains of immigration, they just spew rehtoric and recite legislation. Like all lawyers, Kolbert twists and bends words to conform to her own opinions. Why can't she just say it as it is. She loves her positions in life, her life styles and does not want to do anything, I mean absolutely anything to upset that way of life, and politicaly she is affraid to make changes, affraid the higer up's will look down on her with unhappy eyes. I am all for equality for all, but we have laws, and they must always be applied to everyone farily and equaly, and what the illegal alien wants and gets is differencial treatment. Kolbert, why should an illegal alien be afforded the same rights as a citizen of the USA, and please do not bombard me with legislation goop, just answer it straight forward.

Posted by: blinlizard1 | July 27, 2010 7:23 AM
Report Offensive Comment

They'll have to sue Obama for his documents but heaven's already cast it's choice:
Obama's gotten the Mark of the Beast 666 in his special victory news-edition.
Fast backwards: Obama gets elected in the evening 8 o:clock - next day he celebrates all day, until 7 o:clock when the nightmare starts and his life is ruined. The Illinois Lottery draws 666 in the evening Pick, and blares it all over on all TVs, radios, news-media etc...
Obama's special edition goes to press at midnight that night,... and the lottery draw is in it.

Spread this message fast to everyone that Obama's the one shown-by-heaven. Also, the Mark of the Beast 666 is money seeing it's the Lottery. So, that means his Mark of the Beast is his money that he forces on everyone's hand and forehead. Refuse Obama's money (the biggest spending president in History).

If collectors have the 11/06/2008 newspaper of Obama's victory (the Lottery scan page is enough) please send it to me geir.smith@yahoo.fr

Posted by: GeirSmith | July 14, 2010 6:50 PM
Report Offensive Comment

Carefully scrutinize your federal, state or local constituency representative and recall, petition or just refuse to reelect them. No matter what I say brainless Americans will vote for these morons, who have sold themselves to special interest groups. But the bottom line is your family’s future is at risk, to be overrun by a massive potential voting blocks of foreign nationals. November and even before could be a vital election, as those who would do the millions of jobless Americans harm, will remain in power. Even some Democrats are having second views on the Dept. of Justice, and Czar Eric Holder in suing the State of Arizona.

If any places should be sued, the Sanctuary Cities around the country, that have violated Federal Immigration law--should be top of the purging list with extreme penalties for wrongdoers. All those who condone illegal immigration with their local government policies, should be tarred and feathered and thrown from their offices. Senator Jim De Mint(R-SC) and Senator David Vitter(R-LA) are coming to the rescue of the State of Arizona and you could also with a few dollars ( www.keepazsafe.com 1` ) to fight the shadow government in Obama's presidency at 202-224-3121. Don’t even believe Obama's Czars as they have cut funding to National Security, the REAL fence and the US Border Patrol. Look at NumbersUSA website for the truth.

Posted by: infinity555 | July 14, 2010 6:06 PM
Report Offensive Comment

"I'm a legal American citizen and I must show my ID when:
"--- so do I, but all we have to show is our state issued driver license. What would you do if you showed up at the airport, or were pulled over by the police and told that was not enough--- if you do not want to go to detention with us we need to see a birth certificate or passport? I was born in the US and am fair-skinned with grey eyes--- I would be on the way to detention because I don't carry my passport of birth certificate with me--- do you?

Posted by: gasperfa | July 14, 2010 9:15 AM
Report Offensive Comment

Excuse me--- "Sure Europeans are in the country illegally, but they are NOT causing a problem"--- didn't we just deport a 12th Russian spy this week? Having lived and worked near the AZ/MX border about 15 years ago i do not envy anyone who must live in such an armed police-state-like environment and if you are not very noticably white it is even worse. All I hear in most of the comments is 'keep the brown people out!'

Posted by: gasperfa | July 14, 2010 9:12 AM
Report Offensive Comment

Another criminal advocate attempting to justify illegal entry, identity theft, etc.

Posted by: fury60 | July 14, 2010 4:14 AM
Report Offensive Comment

Kolbert should look up the law.

The US Supreme Court in 2005 in the case of Muehler vs Mena held that local police could verify immigration status of a detained person.. without any requirement for probable cause.

The Fed's lawsuit does not even allege racial profiling or any civil rights violations.

The Fed's lawsuit says that AZ is interferring with federal immigration policy which it claims is an exclusive domaine...but..

- the feds issued a rule that allows states to enforce fed immigration law

- case law states that if an area is to be reserved exclusively it has to so state in legislation... and it does not in immigration law.

- if the feds take this position, why have they not sued the sancturay cities for violation the fed's immigration policy.


It is the pro illegal immigration supporter position that is unconstitutional.

Have two sets of laws, one immigration law for the law abiding, and another more preferential system (amnesty) for lawbreakers violates the equal protection clause of the constitution.

Per the DHS statistics almost all illegal aliens are Hispanic.

Amnesty would allow Hispanic American families to reunify with 100 relatives (illegal ones) to each relative (legal one) allowed for Americans of other races.

That violates the Constitutions anti discrimination clause ...on the basis of race, and also on the basis of national origin. It also violates the equal protection of the law clause.

Sorry, no matter how much the moneyed elite wants their cheap illegal labor to continue to flow in, in America, no one is above the law. No one.

Posted by: Bettybb | July 14, 2010 1:56 AM
Report Offensive Comment

There is nothing cheap about checking up on potential illegals, and there is nothing complex about them being illegals. They crossed the border illegally. How complex can it be? Kolbert, are you retarded or something?

Posted by: linuxlund | July 14, 2010 12:14 AM
Report Offensive Comment

I gather none of these commenters, even the one who claims to have read both the original and amended versions of the Arizona law, has bothered to look at the litigation. The US is arguing that Arizona is attempting to legislate foreign relations, a role that the Constitution assigns exclusively to the federal government. In light of disastrous experience under the preceding structure.

I assume you also haven't noticed that the Mexican government has lodged strenuous complaints with the US government about this law, or that the governors of the Mexican states bordering the US refused to attend the annual meeting with their US counterparts when it was scheduled for Arizona.

Personally, I think the law also fails to provide equal protection to the 4/5 of Hispanic Arizona residents who are legal. In fact, some of their ancestors were there long before any Anglos. Despite all your posturing here, I don't think any of you expect a fair-skinned blue-eyed person (like me) would ever be asked to prove my identity -- with what, birth certificate or passport? -- under this law.

Posted by: thmas | July 13, 2010 11:25 PM
Report Offensive Comment

What a joke, are you really claiming something is "clearly unconstitutional?" Obviously it isn't because it is still under debate. YOU BEG THE QUESTION.

The simple matter is this. One could argue the law is unconstitutional ONCE someone is picked up for being a illegal immigrant. They would have to prove the officer did not use probable cause and that none could exist because what sort of evidence could prove someone is an illegal alien.

My god, someone that does not speak English driving a car in Arizona. Guess what, Mexico is the neighbor who is flooding the USA. Sure Europeans are in the country illegally, but they are NOT causing a problem. Mexicans are causing a problem and as a HISPANIC myself this is not racial this is a nationalistic problem. Kolbert you are a simpleton and act as if people are racist. I am a Hispanic and I CAN NOT STAND illegal immigration.

Posted by: khornbeak | July 13, 2010 10:47 PM
Report Offensive Comment

The original bill, drafted with the intent to encourage racial profiling, was horrendous. After legislators struck out some of the language and amended the controversial parts, the law actually turned out OK. However, when you examine the original bill, the state's intent for widespread racial profiling is obvious. The original bill vaguely stated that police could question a person's citizenship after "lawful contact," which is much less clear than the language in the amended bill ( a "stop, detention or arrest"). Do the police have to pull you over in anticipation of a crime for it to be "lawful contact?" Or can they simply inquire about your citizenship by looking at you, even if you've done nothing wrong?

The real atrocity in the original bill, however, was the part that said law enforcement couldn't SOLELY consider race, color or national origin when determining citizenship. That word "solely" may seem minor, but it's there for a reason. It's there to open the door for racial profiling. If law enforcement can't solely consider race when making these decisions, can they "partly" consider race? Can they "almost exclusively" consider race? When the legislators struck that word "solely" from the bill, everything changed.

Posted by: ds312 | July 13, 2010 9:34 PM
Report Offensive Comment

If it's clearly unconstitutional it would be useful to explain how and why. Otherwise your assertion rests on your credibility and I guarantee that someone who advertises herself as a public interest lawyer at the Athena Center is not going to be particularly seen as credible and unbiased.

Is it good to force the issue? Of course--the Feds have failed the nation with their inability to enforce the law, and the longer they do so the larger the backlash, which will likely end up doing plenty of damage if we end up restricting skilled immigration.

And there is nothing wrong with trying to keep out illegal immigrants. Funny how people who embrace them seem to forget all the people waiting in line to come in legally. But it often seems that people who support loose immigration rules and oppose enforcement often know little about the subject. Just their talking points.

Posted by: Nuancematters | July 13, 2010 8:47 PM
Report Offensive Comment

I don't think the AZ law is unconstitutional at all.

The Obama Administration's position, which is that it is unconstitutional for local law enforcement authorities to refer federal law-breakers to federal authorities for follow up, is clearly untenable.

As for the question about whether this is a good thing to force to the surface, I agree that it is. The law needs to be either enforced or changed. Forcing the issue is clearly the right thing to do.

For the record, I support amnesty. Forcing the federal government to either enforce the law or (my preference) change the law it definitely a step in the right direction.


Posted by: ZZim | July 13, 2010 8:39 PM
Report Offensive Comment

Ms. Kolbert, another person who doesn't produce any wealth, otherwise called a lawyer, knows the law is constitutional since it reflects federal code. She, like others of her ilk, is just pandering to her demographic spectrum of clients.

Posted by: sperrico | July 13, 2010 8:36 PM
Report Offensive Comment

Not “clearly unconstitutional” at all, Kolbert. Perhaps not PC according to your standards, but definitely not unconstitutional.

In fact, Arizona is actually doing a good thing dealing with a problem pandering politicians there in Washington won’t.

Easy for you to sit and talk about “immigrants” at your coctail parties and decry “racism” but in fact, we’re dealing with another issue entirely: illegal immigration and a foreign country that has absolutely NO respect for the sovereignty of the United States.

I understand that fixing the problem (that means closing the borders and deporting illegal aliens), would create quite the conundrum for you with having to find alternative gardeners & house cleaning services but hey, we all got to make sacrifices...

Posted by: 4Jaxon | July 13, 2010 8:27 PM
Report Offensive Comment

According to this legislation, and Gov Jan Brewer herself, showing your driver's license is not enough to prove citizenship. Now be honest, how many of us natural born citizens carry our birth certificates around with us? Arizona (my home state) has passed a law that even most citizens cannot comply with.

Posted by: JellyJ | July 13, 2010 8:26 PM
Report Offensive Comment

Ms Kolbert

What part of the AZ law is unconstitutional??? If it mirrors Federal Law, does that mean that Federal immigration laws are also unconstitutional??

Posted by: joecct77 | July 13, 2010 7:31 PM
Report Offensive Comment

Kathryn i bet you 10 dollars that the government loses it's case with Arizona.

The fed's are already hedging their bets by talking about a second suit.

And Obama and holder should be ashamed of themselves by going against the will of the majority of American citizens and doing this.

They will be made to pay for this and that day is coming in November.

Posted by: PennyWisetheClown | July 13, 2010 7:23 PM
Report Offensive Comment

Kathryn Kolbert lives in an Ivory tower in New York city! It's a long way Arizona. SHE

Posted by: blhfish | July 13, 2010 7:21 PM
Report Offensive Comment

Excellent article by Kathryn Kolbert. Arizona is the new 'deep south,' and America's shame.

Posted by: revbookburn | July 13, 2010 7:08 PM
Report Offensive Comment

Kolbert's views on Arizona are garbage. Wherever I've traveled, here or abroad, I've never thought twice about being asked for my identification. Illegal aliens hide behind the perfectly legitimate status of 'immigrant' and try to blend in with, and masquerade as, legitimate immigrants. Overall, what they're saying is, "Slap us on the wrist, but then give us full-privilige citizenship". My wife, also an immigrant, went thru all the jumps without whining or complaining. Don't expect sympathy from this quarter.

Posted by: notsoclever2003 | July 13, 2010 6:15 PM
Report Offensive Comment

I'm a legal American citizen and I must show my ID when:
1. Pulled over by the police.
2. Making purchases on my department store credit card.
3. When I show up for a doctor's appointment.
4. When filling out a credit card or loan application.
5. When applying for or renewing a driver's license or passport.
6. When applying for any kind of insurance.
7. When filling out college applications.
8. When donating blood.
9. When obtaining certain prescription drugs.
10. When making some debit purchases, especially if I'm out of state.
11. When collecting a boarding pass for airline or train travel.

I'm sure there are more instances, but the point is that we citizens of the USA are required to prove who we are nearly every day!

Why should people in this country illegally , be exempt!!!!!
Why shouldn't we guard our borders as closely as every other country in the world does?

Posted by: SimmertimeinDC | July 13, 2010 5:29 PM
Report Offensive Comment

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company