On October 18, 2007, Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin were unlawfully arrested by armed deputies from Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Maricopa County’s “Selective Enforcement Unit”. The two Phoenix Times writers were illegally removed from from their homes in the Phoenix-area put into dark, unmarked SUVs with and transported, separated and booked into two different jails that operate under Arapio’s supervision.
Joe Arpaio, the sheriff who ordered and carried out the arrest of Lacey and Larkin, has a reputation operating in unethical ways and had recently been covered in a Phoenix Times article. “America’s Toughest Sheriff”, a name Arapio gave himself, had became outraged by Phoenix New Times stories that uncovered all of his evil practices to it’s readers. The Phoenix New Times reported on the dysfunctional system Arpaio had in place and excessive abuse of power including; mismanagement, poor health conditions within Arpaio’s jail, deaths of jail inmates, and Arpaio’s racial profiling and illegal arrest and detainment of Latinos.
The article that leads to the arrest of Lacey and Larkin was a cover story in Phoenix New Times that revealed how Arpaio illegally issued grand jury subpoenas in an attempt to attain details about the newspaper’s writers, editors, and readers. To add to the already repeated abuse to the legal system Arpaio attained readers’ personal browsing histories and IP addresses. Instead of giving in to Arpaio’s illegal orders to Lacey and Larkin wrote about it in the Phoenix Times which would lead to their arrest.
After an immediate national response in disfavor of the arrest, Lacey and Larkin were released within 24 hours and all charges against them were dropped.
The illegal arrest and detention of Lacey and Larkin sparked a year long court battle based on the premises of First Amendment rights and abuse of power. The Ninth Circuit came to the conclusion that the subpoenas ordered by Arpaio were illegal and never went through the proper legal procedures in order to be granted. That conclusion deemed Lacey and Larkin’s arrest unlawful as it occurred without any probable cause.
The court’s decision resulted in a $3.7 million settlement in favor of Lacey and Larkin. Inspired by their own personal fight against their rights being violated the two started the Lacey and Larkin Frontera Fund. The group’s intentions were to benefit the Hispanic community in Arizona have been and currently are victims of racial discrimination and civil rights violations. Since the launching of the fund, the group has begun funding groups with similar purposes that feel can benefit from their help.
Back in 2007, Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey were arrested in the middle of the night by the Sheriff in Maricopa County. They had released information that the Sheriff had been trying to cover up information taken on him by reporters. They sued the court for wrongful arrest and after a long battle they were award with more than $3 million in settlement money. Read more: Michael Larcey | Crunchbase
They decided to use this money for good, and there terrors occurring along the border between the United States and Mexico was particularly troubling to them. They decided to use the money to create the Larkin & Lacey Frontera Fund. This organization now funds human, migrant, and civil rights groups all over Arizona.
Their effect has spanned the entire country as more and more people are hearing about the work they are doing to promote equal rights and fair treatment. Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin are lifelong journalist and they also founded the Phoenix New Times and the Village Voice Media.
One of the first groups in Arizona that was funded by the Larkin & Lacey Frontera Fund was the Colibri Center for Human Rights. This group is family run and completely nonprofit. They believe that the violations committed against immigrants in Arizona is a human rights issue and they work to prevent the deaths that occur on the border every year.
One of the ways in which they are able to help is through their Missing Migrant Project. This project was created to help the families who are missing someone who was crossing the border.
The works at Colibri meet with these families and help them compile missing person’s reports. Unlike the typical reports, they focus on the small details such as tattoos and prayer cards. This allows the medical examiners to identify some of the bodies and this also brings relief to the families of the missing. Learn more about Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey: http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/politics/immigration/2014/12/16/proceeds-arpaio-suit-fund-asu-journalism-chair/20480479/ and http://www.laceyandlarkinfronterafund.org/5-smart-ways-people-and-places-are-resisting-trumps-immigration-policies/
Another program that the Colibri group runs is their new DNA program. This is the first time something like this has been implemented and it will drastically reduce the number of bodies that go unidentified. One of the reasons this is so important is the harsh desert weather that wreaks havoc on the bodies that are found along the border.
Once the bodies are collected, they are often completely unrecognizable so they are unable to be identified via photo ID. Their fingerprints are usually worn away as well so that is not helpful. The volunteers at the Colibri group are traveling all over Arizona to meet with these families and gather their DNA.
They then send this DNA to genetics labs where the data is compared with the DNA gathered from the bodies. This will allow these families to have closure about what happened to their loved one.
The Colibri group also has a family network that they use to help the families through these difficult times. They give them a place to talk and organize events that help in the healing process. They also use this as a way to improve.