Joe Arpaio liked to refer to himself as “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” but this disingenuous title does not tell the full story behind Arpaio’s crusade against the Hispanic community in Arizona. Back in 2005, Arpaio began speaking out in the most public way possible about his views on undocumented immigrants and his plan to turn them over to federal officials whenever possible. He gained more than his fair share of the national news for his controversial opinions on this subject and willingness to ignore established protocols and court orders in carrying out his objectives. He instructed all of his subordinates in his department in Maricopa County to comply with his instructions to round up anyone suspected of being in the country without the proper documentation and turning them over to federal agents.
Arpaio most recently made the news during his criminal contempt trial. He was found guilty and will await sentencing in the fall of this year. Arpaio has long ignored court orders requiring that he stop detaining people based solely on racial profiling and without any scrap of evidence that they had committed some sort of crime. This time he took his stubbornness too far and was unable to escape the wrath of the criminal justice system. His lawyers tried their best to argue that the judge’s order telling Arpaio that he could not use racial profiling as a method to identify people for detention by federal immigration agents was not sufficiently clear for Arpaio to understand how to obey. This argument fell flat on its face, especially because the order had been upheld on appeal several times and was the subject of painstaking judicial scrutiny. Supporters of immigrant rights are hoping that Arpaio is subjected to a serious sentence in the coming months so that other like-minded law enforcement officials receive a clear message that this type of racial discrimination is unconstitutional and will not be tolerated.
It was difficult for many local politicians and citizens to speak out against Arpaio in his earlier days as sheriff because there seemed to be no one able to hold him accountable to his oath of office or the U.S. Constitution. However, some brave journalists were willing to go out on a limb and uncover the truth behind Arpaio’s abuses of power and unethical dealings while in office. After a truthful but negative cover story about Arpaio was published in the Phoenix New Times, two journalists were arrested for their involvement in the story. The story detailed how Arpaio had subpoenas issued for information related to browser histories and computer files of media members who were known to disagree with his policies. Following the arrest of the journalists, there was a national push to end Arpaio’s reign of terror and make him answer for the crimes against the citizens of Arizona that he had committed while in office.
Although this incident sent chills down the spines of journalists across the country, the two gentlemen who were arrested by Arpaio’s department were able to find justice in a very satisfying way. Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey were immediately released from jail, and all charges against them were dropped almost instantly. Even better, they received a settlement in excess of $3.75 million from the county and were able to illuminate the distasteful and illegal actions of Arpaio in the process. Larkin and Lacey became symbols of heroism in the fight to protect the right to free speech and rooting out corruption at all levels of government. They were determined to make sure that no other journalist would ever be afraid to report the truth, especially when that means investigating an elected official and exposing human rights abuses by those in power.
This was the spark that ignited the Frontera Fund. Larkin and Lacey had previously worked together as editors and visionaries of regional media companies and were already in a great position to team up in support of the Hispanic community in Arizona before this incident with Arpaio ever occurred. However, the financial fallout was something that neither Larkin nor Lacey had ever previously had access to. They realized that they could make a huge difference by investing those funds in people and organizations who were championing causes they cared about, namely the safeguarding of human rights for some of the most marginalized groups in the U.S.
Right now, the Frontera Fund supports dozens of organizations in their fight to provide a fair opportunity to Hispanic immigrants to earn a living in this country. The Frontera Fund also publishes countless articles on the state of immigrant rights in the U.S. and current news on legislation aimed at curtailing immigrant rights. It is a voice of support for the immigrants who are unable to stand up for themselves without making themselves an easy target for deportation. As long as there are politicians who do not value the role that immigration plays in preserving the diversity and possibilities of our great nation, the Frontera Fund will be on the front lines of battling against them.
Lacey and Larkin are very respected journalists in their own careers and have received numerous awards in recognition of their analytical reporting and ability to deliver the most impactful news stories in a way that truly resonates with their readers. They also both have an understanding of the business aspect of running a major publication or media company, which makes them perfectly suited to remain at the helm of the Frontera Fund for many years to come. They possess the ideal combination of practical experience as well as a true passion for the cause. All of the staff at the Frontera Fund share in Lacey and Larkin’s strong feelings about the importance of defending those who do not have the means to stake their own claim to the American dream. They believe that immigrants are just as deserving as anyone else to work hard and contribute to this society without being labeled as criminals based on the color of their skin.