Making A Difference on the Mexican-U.S. Border

The Lacey and Larkin Frontera Fund was established with settlement monies received by two journalists, following their legal battle against Maricopa County Arizona Sheriff Joel Arpaio.

In October 2007, Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin, co-founders of the Phoenix New Times and Village Voice Media, were wrongfully arrested and jailed due to articles they had penned that spoke out against the civil rights-infringing activities conducted by Sheriff Arpaio. They cited numerous occasions where the sheriff’s department was guilty of acting against Mexican immigrants in the community of Maricopa and beyond.

As a result, the lawsuit they levied against the county was decided in their favor, and awarded them $3.7 million dollars in damages. Michael and Jim decided to use the settlement to create a vital resource that would assist groups advocating for just and fair treatment of Hispanic immigrants. Read more: Jim Larkin | Twitter and Jim Larkin |LinkedIn

Thus, the Frontera Fund was created. It was founded on principles both men learned growing up – to always lend a helping hand to those less fortunate. In 2014, they quietly began distributing funds to aid worthy, non-profit groups that advocate for the civil right and causes of the Hispanic people.

Various groups have been taken under their wing over the past few years, and one of these deserving group is the Colibri Center for Human Rights, located in Tucson, Arizona. As a family advocacy organization, they work to help end migrant death and related suffering on the Mexican-U.S. border. Their work centers on communicating with families, forensic scientists and humanitarians from a human rights perspective. Their focus is on three main program areas:

1) The Missing Migrant Project

Colibri’s advocacy work is based on data, which can help find the missing and identify the dead, as well as educate immigrants and their families on a large scale. The project bridges the gap between medical examiners and families of the missing.

Colibri works closely with families to identify specific details, like tattoos, prayer cards, and other personal items, that may have been with the missing person. They relay this information to medical examiners who can use it to track and compare when identifying the dead. Learn more about Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey:

2) DNA Program

Because many immigrants are found dead in remote desert areas of the border, usual identification processes like fingerprints or photos are not as reliable. With this program, the hundreds of immigrants found each year have an improved chance of being identified, and the families given notice and closure.

Over the next three years, Colibri will travel to various cities to collect DNA samples from families of missing immigrant, and build an archived databased of DNA for comparison to deceased persons.

3) Red de Familiares

The “Family Network” initiative works to bring families and loved ones of the missing together, to forge a support group during this traumatic time. It also serves as an open forum for Colibri to learn about these hurting families, to better address and meet their needs. Colibri supports these families through community sharing, as they go through this difficult healing process.