Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin are Phoenix, Arizona area journalists who have been developing their reputation as civil rights and free speech crusader since the 1970s. They are the co-founders of the newspaper The Phoenix New Times and its parent company Village Voice Media. They are also the co-founders of the Lacey and Larkin Frontera Fund which was established to aid in the fight for immigrant and migrant rights. The story of how the Frontera Fund came to be is a very interesting one and it is a story that is inexorably tied to disgraced former Maricopa County Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
The events that eventually led to the establishment of the Frontera Fund began on the 18th of October, 2007 when armed deputies of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department, under orders of Sheriff Joe Arpaio forcibly removed Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin from their Phoenix homes and hauled them away in tinted windowed, unmarked SUV’s bearing Mexican license plates. The two were subsequently booked into separate jail facilities. The aftermath of these arrests included a huge public outcry that led to the release of the freedom fighting journalists within 24 hours and the start of a suit that would lead to a $3.7 million settlement.
The motivation behind the arrests of Lacey and Larkin were predicated on the growing frustration from Joe Arpaio and his corrupt department at the fact the Phoenix New Times, unlike many other media outlets, was telling the truth about what was going on in Maricopa County. Misdeeds exposed by the newspaper included embezzlement of funds, below standard health conditions in the county jail facilities and constant reports of mistreatment of inmates including cases of inmate deaths. Arpaio’s department was also mired in constant allegations of racial profiling of people of Latino origin without probable cause.
The truth behind the Lacey and Larkin arrest was that it was the result of a story the pair had published in which a conspiracy between Arpaio and the county’s attorney was exposed and included details of the privacy of Phoenix New Times readers being compromised. When all was said and done, the Ninth Court of Appeals made it clear that the arrests were a direct vioation of the First Amendment and that subpoenas issues in Maricopa County’s grand-jury investigation had not been issued in accordance with the law. The result was that Lacey and Larkin were awarded $3.7 million as a settlement. Their response to receiving this sum was to put it to good use in starting the Frontera Fund as a way to continue to fight for immigrant and migrant rights.