The Frontera Fund is a non-profit organization created by Jim Larkin and Michael Lacy. The organization was created to help Hispanics who have been victims of racial profiling and other abuses by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office and its lead henchman, former Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
The creation of the organization was quite fortuitous. Larkin and Lacey, Village Media Voice executives, also got a taste of Sheriff Joe’s home cooking on the evening of Oct. 18, 2007 when they were forcibly removed from their homes and arrested by the sheriff’s goon squad.
While charges were later dropped, it became apparent that the trumped-up charges stemmed from an expose written by the men, which appeared in the Phoenix New Times. The story presented a very unflattering portrait of Arpaio, his deputies and the mismanagement, fear-mongering and prisoner abuse going on at his jail.
Arpaio, the self-proclaimed “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” is not a man who likes being accused. He has made it a habit of punishing those who challenge his authority. Larkin and Lacey not only exposed his misdeeds, they also wrote about how his minions at the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office worked in lockstep with him to bully journalists, readers and anyone else who got in his way.
The detention of Larkin and Lacey set off a constitutional firestorm. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling regarding the Arpaio’s abuse of power and civil rights violations was scathing. The court ruled that it was difficult to conceive a more direct assault on First Amendment Rights with public officials ordering critics to be arrested.
The court went on to rule that that arrest warrants, as well as the subpoenas were invalid because they were not issued under correct protocols.
Larkin and Lacey won a $3.2 million lawsuit against the sheriff’s department. But instead of pocketing the money, they created the Frontera Fund.
Larkin says he grew up in Arizona, and he fully understands that the legal rights of all citizens should be protected.
“Arpaio abused many people, especially those with brown skin. He helped foster a climate of fear,” said Lacey.