It is a story that could have come straight out of a country run by a dictator, or some other form of fascism. Two people are relaxing in their respective homes in the evening, then unmarked vans with tinted windows pull up to their houses, and out jumps men who go on to take them away and put them in prison without going through proper procedures.
For those still wondering where this happened, they may be shocked to know it happened in none other than Phoenix, Arizona! This happened back in 2007 and the two victims were Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin.
The village voice
Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey are the founders of Phoenix New Times and Village Voice Media, publications based in Phoenix, Arizona. They have a history of keeping an eye on law enforcement through these media outlets, especially the Sheriff’s office in Maricopa County.
If the name Maricopa County rings a bell, then it’s likely people have heard about this county for all the wrong reasons. This is the infamous county where the sheriff’s department was headed by a colorful character named Joe Arpaio. Learn more about Michael Lacey: http://www.laceyandlarkinfronterafund.org/about-lacey-larkin-frontera-fund/jim-larkin/
He went on to gain notoriety by calling himself the “toughest sheriff in the country”. One of the reasons why he called himself that is because of his tough stance on illegal immigration. Some would argue that not only was his methods illegal, but he practiced racial profiling to do his job.
Mr. Larkin and Mr. Lacey through Village Voice Media were not shy about exposing Sheriff Arpaio’s lack of discretion. In fact, the two have been doing so since the early 1990’s, exposing all sorts of misdeeds of the sheriff and his department.
Finally, things came to a head when Sheriff Arpaio decided to take justice into his own hands by having Mr. Larkin and Lacey arrested. The specific reason why he did this is what is more shocking. Sheriff Arpaio wanted the browsing history and names of people who read the online articles pertaining to the sheriff’s actions. Needless to say, this was a gross violation of the First Amendment of the US Constitution. Read more: Michael Larcey | Twitter and Michael Larcey | Crunchbase
Mr. Larkin and Lacey went ahead and sued the sheriff for his actions. Last year they won the case and received a $3.75 Million settlement. With this money, the duo started a non-profit organization devoted to protecting people’s rights, including immigrants who are illegally detained. The foundation is called the Frontera Fund. Even though the fund was started to tackle injustices towards people in general, the main aim of the fund is to help with any civil rights abuses that Mexicans who take the perilous journey to work in the US at substandard wages, may face.
Most of these immigrants do not have the knowledge or support to defend themselves if they were to find themselves in a situation such as what Mr. Lacey and Larkin had to endure.
After all, even if two well-known journalists such as Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey can be treated that way, one can only imagine what happens to an immigrant who can barely speak English.