The Frontera Fund and the Border Angels

Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin are journalists who founded two Arizona newspapers: the Phoenix New Times and the Village Voice Media.

Through these two newspapers, Lacey and Larkin spent years exposing malfeasance on the part of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the self-styled “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” and his deputies in the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.

In 2007, Sheriff Arpaio began pressuring the local district attorney to discover some violation that could be used to arrest Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin. On the night of October 18, 2007, the two were arrested and jailed on what they considered trumped-up charges.

The Sheriff and District Attorney demanded that they turn over all notes regarding investigations into the sheriff’s office and the identities of those who accessed the stories online.

After a public uproar, the pair was released and all charges were dropped. They filed suit for wrongful arrest and Maricopa County officials voted to settle for $3.7 million dollars. Part of the settlement was used to establish a “Chair in Borderland Issues” at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University to be named the “Lacey-Larkin Chair.”

The rest of the settlement went to launch The Frontera Fund, an organization dedicated to investigating migrant and freedom of speech issues. Learn more about Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey: https://www.facebook.com/jimlarkin53 and http://www.bizjournals.com/phoenix/potmsearch/detail/submission/6427818/Michael_Lacey

The Frontera Fund also serves as a funding group allied with other migrant rights organizations. Although the Frontera Fund restricts its altruism to migrant rights groups in Arizona, there are many other such groups all along the Mexican border. One is the Border Angels, whose motto is “Saving People’s Lives While Making a Difference.”

Border Angels was founded in 1986 in San Diego, California, by Enrique Morones, whose grandfather, Luis Negrette Morones, was a Mexican union boss and Secretary of the Economy in Mexico in the early ‘20s. It is an all-volunteer, faith-based non-profit dedicated to protecting migrant rights.

In addition to lobbying and legal advocacy, the Border Angels take a “boots on the ground” approach to rescue missions. Its more than 2000 volunteers assist the immigrant population with legal assistance and with help finding jobs. Volunteers also try to prevent immigrant deaths along the border by hiking into remote areas and setting up plainly marked reserves of bottled water.

Morones was inspired to form the group when he took a trip with parishioners of a Carlsbad Catholic Church to northern San Diego County, and they found women and children living in caves. He started making regular trips bringing supplies.

Morones later discussed his work with Ethel Kennedy, who suggested he use the news media to draw attention to the desperate circumstances of migrants in the area.

From that humble beginning, the organization has grown to provide services all along the border in both Mexico and the U.S.

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