Taking up the Advocacy Fight

Upon the resignation of a journalist who worked for Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin, the duo decided to take on his work. The former Phoenix Times had been investigating America’s self-proclaimed toughest sheriff in the United States for financial misappropriation and abuse of office.

He dutiful reporter had left journalistic notes indicative of fraud at the sheriff’s office to his bosses. In the notes, he had highlighted financial statements that the sheriff had made a cash deposit of 690,000 dollars in investment in local real estate despite his annual salary of 72,000 dollars.

In the notes, the journalist also concluded that the sheriff conducted biased searches and arrests in Hispanic neighborhoods and often brutalized and shamed the locals in those neighborhoods.

After probing further, the founders of the Village Voice Media and the Phoenix times, Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin, found more damning evidence regarding the sheriff’s flagrant abuse of office. He had left over 60 jail inmates to die of treatable infections which they contracted under his custody in the ill-maintained county jails.

The deplorable conditions in which his office kept the public holding facilities was always unfit for human habitation yet he always filled them with members of the Hispanic community. The abrasive sheriff had also formed a habit of abusing and silencing his critics, even members of the media.

Lacey and Larkin published articles detailing the sheriff’s abuse of human rights and misuse of his mandate in settling personal scores. They also included details about the financial unaccountability at the sheriff’s office. They were to face a severe backlash later when he ordered them to yield their journalistic sources and notes to his office.

The subpoenas that he sent to their offices making those demands also required them to furnish his office with private browsing data of their readers including the readers’ IP addresses. The two declined the orders and were fetched from their homes in the dark of the night by armed deputies and whisked away in unmarked and tinted vehicles. Read more: Phoenix New Time and Village Voice Media | Wikipedia

The matter was already a public concern and Sheriff Joe Arpaio could not get away with his usual gimmicks. Public pressure got him to release them from custody barely 24 hours after he took them.

The two veteran journalists sued the county for wrongful arrest and were compensated with 3.75 million dollars for it. They have since been at the forefront of defending the rights of immigrants and members of minority groups.

Through the Lacey and Larkin Frontera Fund which supports litigation efforts of civil lobby groups advocating for the emancipation of immigrants, human rights activists groups like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Puente Arizona Society have continued to nullify oppressive laws and policies in courts of laws.

The 3.75 million dollars that Lacey and Larkin were compensated with has been critical for the Frontera Fund’s initiatives, much to the benefit of causes supported by similar activists groups. Other groups and unions which have been important in the advocacy for the rights of immigrants and other minority groups in the United States include:

  • The Coalition for Human Immigrant Rights [CHIRLA]
  • The Amazon Watch
  • The Advocates for Human Rights

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