The Frontera Fund has quickly built a name for itself as one of the leading defenders of human rights of those living and working along the U.S.-Mexican border in Arizona and the surrounding states. Only born in 2012, The Frontera Fund began life following the decision of the Ninth Circuit Supreme Court to come down in favor of journalists Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin who had been illegally arrested and detained overnight by Sheriff Arpaio following an investigation into events in Maricopa County; allies of Sheriff Arpaio in Arizona had moved to force the journalists and owners of Village Voice Media to release their personal records regarding readers including IP addresses on Online subscribers.
Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin were taken from their homes on the night of October 18, 2007, in unmarked vehicles as an obvious form of intimidation against the journalists who had refused to reveal the personal information of their readers. While being held in jail a fellow inmate asked Michael Lacey why he had been arrested, Lacey’s reply was a simple statement, “writing”.
Although the incident may have become headline news around the U.S. on October 18, 2007, when media outlets reported the arrest of their fellow journalists and called the attention of the public to the incident a legal battle had been rumbling on between Village Voice Media and Sheriff Arpaio for a number of weeks. Larkin and Lacey had begun an investigation into a number of financial irregularities at the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department headed by Joe Arpaio; the publication of a story revealing the details of the irregularities followed and would lead to the arrest of the two journalists. Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin were soon served with a Grand Jury subpoena from Maricopa County calling for the release of personal information of subscribers to the Phoenix New Times news outlet.
The arrest of Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey would follow these events and lead to a Supreme Court battle in the Ninth Circuit resulting in the journalists being given compensation of $3.7 million for their illegal detention and arrest. The journalists decided to put the compensation to good use with the formation of The Frontera Fund dedicated to providing assistance to members of the Hispanic community and people of color so long victimized by Sheriff Arpaio over the course of his stewardship of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department.