Sheriff Joe Arpaio is a name many people who were aware of racial politics in the early 21st-century will remember for the victimization of various minority groups including Mexican migrants and people of color. One of the few bright moments to come from the stewardship of the law in Arizona’s Maricopa County comes from the fact The Frontera Fund charitable group was created from the embers of the downfall of the man who described himself as “America’s toughest sheriff”.
The Frontera Fund was formed by journalists and media executives, Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin to fight for the rights of minority groups who are often robbed of their basic human rights in communities along the U.S.-Mexican border. The incident leading directly to the creation of The Frontera Fund took place on October 18th, 2007 when Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin were removed from their homes in Phoenix, Arizona in unmarked SUV’s at the behest of Sheriff Arpaio and members of Maricopa County’s justice department.
In the days and weeks prior to the arrest of the Village Voice Media executives, the battle between them and Sheriff Arpaio had grown in anger following an investigation by the Phoenix New Times of Village Voice Media into the financial irregularities seen at Maricopa County’s Sheriff’s Department. In response to the investigation, officials at Maricopa County used an illegally-obtained Grand Jury subpoena to ask for the personal information of Phoenix New Times staff and readers including IP addresses of Online readers. This clear violation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution became the next cover story for the Phoenix New Times as Larkin and Lacey refused to hand over the requested information.
As legal battles continued over the subpoenas, Sheriff Arpaio dispatched his allies to the Phoenix area homes of Larkin and Lacey to arrest the two men and illegally imprison them. The fact Sheriff Arpaio had failed to take into account the media and public backlash against his acts revealed how far out of touch he had become with the law and resulted in a Supreme Court fight resulting in a $3.7 million compensation payout to the two journalists. Choosing to use the compensation fund for good, Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey decided to create The Frontera Fund which fights on behalf of migrants and people of color in their continuing battle against the stigma created about them by Sheriff Arpaio and his allies over the first decade of the 21st-century.