The birth of any human rights group is often completed in response to a single incident taking place which inspires individuals to find their voice and make a little noise. The Frontera Fund is no different and was born from a financial settlement provided to two journalists, Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin who were illegally detained by Sheriff Arpaio and his cohorts on the night of October 18, 2007, using unmarked vehicles to transfer the Village Voice Media executives to jail. Sheriff Arpaio found himself facing a major backlash on the national level when fellow members of the media took on the cause of Larkin and Lacey making it headline news across the U.S.
The events leading up to the incident on October 18, 2007, began with an investigation into the financial irregularities many believed were occurring at Maricopa County’s Sheriff’s Department. Sheriff Arpaio and his staff in Maricopa County did not take kindly to the revelations of Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin and hit back through his allies with a Grand Jury subpoena demanding the names and IP addresses of readers of the Phoenix New Times publication operated by the Village Voice Media Group. Larkin and Lacey refused the calls of Sheriff Arpaio and his allies revealing details of the first Amendment breach being demanded in another front-page story with the Phoenix New Times; the journalists were then arrested with their crime eventually revealed to be revealing Grand Jury secrets.
The national outcry against the actions of Sheriff Arpaio and officials in Maricopa County began almost immediately after the arrest of the journalists with many media outlets focusing on the transgression of the Forst Amendment by Maricopa County law enforcement agencies. It is fair to say officials in Maricopa County had failed to judge the mood of the nation and released the journalists within 24 hours before a lawsuit was brought by Village Voice Media to fight against the issues created by the work of Sheriff Arpaio.
A compensation package of $3.7 million was eventually awarded to Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey which was used to develop The Frontera Fund for the good of the communities of Arizona and other states along the U.S.-Mexican border. Hispanic communities and people of color were all targeted by Sheriff Arpaio and are now having their rights protected by The Frontera Fund with its aims of building a bright and successful future for all.