Defending First amendment, civil, and migrant rights in the embattled border towns of Arizona takes guts and dedication. Journalists and publishers Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin embrace both qualities.
The co-founders of Village Voice Media and the Phoenix New Times turned their 2007 wrongful arrest into The Lacey and Larkin Frontera Fund, a philanthropy advocating for civil, First Amendment, human, and migrant rights.
In 2007, Lacey and Larkin published an article documenting grand jury proceedings that subpoenaed journalist’s notes from articles regarding Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the identities of people who read online New Times articles about Arpaio.
Arpaio arrested them “in the middle of the night” on October 18, 2007 for publishing the article. The journalists sued Maricopa County over the arrests. The United States Court of Appeals for the ninth circuit found for the plaintiffs and awarded a $3.75 million settlement to the journalists.
Micheal Lacey and Jim Larkin created the Frontera Fund with the settlement. It funds Arizona civil and migrant rights organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, The Colibrí Center for Human Rights, Si Se Puede Foundation, Tuscon Samaritans (Los Samaritanos), and 18 others.
All of the groups receiving funding help migrants along “la línea fronteriza,” the border between Mexico and the United States. Both Tuscon Samaritans (Los Samaritanos) and No More Deaths (No Mas Muertes) leave water, food, and supplies along the migrant trails. NMD offers medical aid and shelter in its migrant camp, while Samaritans offers sanctuary to immigrants through its sponsor organization, Southside Presbyterian Church. Learn more about Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey: http://www.laceyandlarkinfronterafund.org/
Help doesn’t necessarily mean border care packages. Arizona’s ACLU branch challenges unconstitutional state laws affecting minorities. In 2007, the Arizona ACLU participated in the litigation of a federal class action lawsuit, Melendres v. Arpaio. In May 2013, the federal district court of Arizona found that the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office “engaged in unlawful discrimination” of Hispanics during traffic enforcement operations.
The court issued an injunction that October, requiring the Sheriff’s office institute reforms and placing a court monitor in Arpaio’s office in an effort to curtail the sheriff’s policy of systematic racial profiling.
The Frontera Fund also supports organizations that help migrants suceed in the US. The Si Se Puede Foundation offers homework assistance and tutoring, plus programs in folk dancing and soccer to underprivileged students.
It offers a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) program that includes robotics activities and helps students participate in the FIRST Robotics Competition and FIRST Lego League. Fundación México takes over after high school by offering college scholarships to “Dreamers” of Mexican descent.
Although people brought across the border illegally as children or born to illegal immigrants within the US have legal permission to remain within the country, they are barred from state or federal college grants and loans. Arizona law requires that they pay out-of-state tuition. To receive a FM scholarship the recipient must hold a part- or full-time job, exhibit civic engagement and earn top grades.
Lacey and Larkin turned a cloud into a silver lining that helps those who help the migrant community within the US. Their Frontera Fund helps give a voice to an often silenced community.