Advocates Fighting For A Change

On the evening of October 18, 2007, armed deputies of Arizona’s Maricopa County Sheriff’s department “Selective Enforcement Unit” arrested Mike Lacey and Jim Larkin, journalists for Village Voice media. The harrowing occurrence came on the heels of articles which had been written by the journalists, accusing Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio of illegal treatment and misdeeds in his convictions and dealings with Mexican migrants.

Grand Jury subpoenas had previously been issued to the publication, inquiring in-depth about information on the newspaper’s readers, editors, and writers. Demands were issued for information on all employee’s personal internet browsing histories and IP addresses. In response, instead of caving to the court’s demands, Lacey and Larkin wrote about it.

As the result of a loud public outcry, Lacey and Larkin were released from jail within 24 hours, with all charges dropped. Courts found the men to have been improperly arrested, which resulted in a $3.7 million-dollar settlement being paid to the men from Maricopa County in 2014.

With the award money, Lacey and Larkin decided to begin a unique initiative to help aid nonprofit groups that support, assist, and advocate for Hispanic rights. Their mission is to back these individual groups who are fighting to ensure civil rights and fair treatment are being given to all Mexican immigrants.

One such nonprofit group is the Arizona DREAM Act Coalition (ADAC), founded in 2006 by a group of undocumented students. They sought positive and constructive ways to respond to the harsh 2006 laws which required undocumented students to unfairly pay exorbitant out-of-state tuition expenses. The laws also made them exempt from being able to obtain publicly-funded merit-based scholarships. Read more: Village Voice Media | Wikipedia and Phoenix New Time

Subsequently, these students decided to stand up and fight for their right to receive a college education, and be treated fairly. One founder, Dulce Matuz, is widely recognized across the nations as a strong Latina leader. Many of the original founders have graduated from esteemed schools, such as the Arizona State University of Law, and the Stanford University of Engineering. Their dreams of a valuable, much-needed education had finally become a reality.

As the fight continues, most recently ADAC was named plaintiff in a federal lawsuit. It claims the organization was singled out from other immigrant groups by Arizona’s governor, who refused to grant driver’s licenses to members, even though Homeland Security has previously granted them permission to remain in the U.S.

Today, members of the ADAC advocate for fair tuition costs, educational rights, and immigration and human rights. Their civic involvement includes engaging with the Hispanic population to encourage support for positive change, and to promote the community importance of taking part in election voting activities.

A new ADAC endeavor, the “No Dream Deferred” program, has been instituted to help educate and assist potential students and their families in understanding, completing, and submitting college enrollment forms. The group also remains active at the local and national levels, as they seek to impact legislation in both the federal governmental arena, and within the organization and its chapters across the U.S.

Learn more about Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey: