While 2016 may have been discouraging for some with the election of Donald Trump as president, it was encouraging for others with the end of Joe Arpaio’s time as sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona.
Arpaio’s legacy will certainly not be forgotten by many in Phoenix including the former CEOs of Village Voice Media, Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey. The two journalists fought Arpaio especially over issues related to immigration and were often in the crosshairs of the sheriff’s department whenever they published news articles he didn’t like.
Arpaio had violated a judge’s order related to immigration that had come after years of hearings in the Maricopa County Court, but upon hearing this President Trump elected to pardon Arpaio.
Larkin and Lacey and their associates remarked that they were disappointed in the president’s decision and that it really showed the flaws in the US justice system. But they had already started the Frontera Fund and they pledged that the foundation would raise even more money to help immigrants with issues affecting their community welfare.
Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey both dropped out of college because they were making money publishing their Phoenix New Times paper through the Village Voice Media company they had setup. It got started back in the early 1970s when Lacey, a staunch critic of then President Nixon started criticizing his actions in Vietnam and joining in the protesters.
Though the protests were tainted by stories such as the Kent State Massacre, the two men would go on the front lines to get actual action reported in their columns. But the early 1970s were just the beginning as Larkin and Lacey built up their conglomerate.
They discussed a lot of issues concerning politics and events such as the fall of the Soviet Union to the Enron scandal of 2001, but their battle with then Sheriff Arpaio took center stage in the mid-2000s.
A story published about Arpaio’s use of public funds in the department and possibly for personal use angered the sheriff who decided to try and frame the two men to get probable cause to arrest them.
The arrest was unconventional as the deputies didn’t even use official vehicles but actually had secret ones with Mexican plates and dragged them from their homes in the middle of the night.
But though Arpaio thought he might get away with it, the public made their opinion known and the judge presiding over Larkin and Lacey’s case who normally sided with Arpaio ruled this time that the sheriff had overstepped his legal line.
Larkin and Lacey decided to go even further with their wrongful arrest pardon and took Arpaio to court to sue for damages. After about 6 years of hearings, the courts granted Larkin and Lacey $3 million, the amount of which was used to start the Frontera Fund.
This new foundation still operates like a news organization with stories about immigrants and their communities, but it also works with immigration and human rights reform organization and dedicates a lot of money to lobbying for immigration reform policies.