If there is anything an undocumented worker in the United States needs, it’s a sense of personal value and humanity. Living without legal status in a foreign country is far more than a daily economic struggle.
Along with it can come a sense of displacement that can make a person feel like they have no fundamental, intrinsic value.
An organization in Arizona wants to change that. They believe one of the best ways for people to get in touch with their own humanity is through art. Aliento is a nonprofit organization based in Mesa. They present themselves as a “youth-led” organization and staffed with people of undocumented status. Read more: Jim Larkin | Angel.co and Michael Lacey | LinkedIn
The central premise of Aliento is that, through creating works of art, people can heal themselves of psychological trauma — but they can go further and find inner strength, and a sense of personal power. Art can trigger a transformative experience.
Aliento has recently received financial support from the Larkin and Lacey Frontera Fund. This is a group that advocates for the lives and social/political status of undocumented workers, as well as Latino and Hispanic peoples living in America legally or illegally.
The Larkin and Lacey Frontera Fund was established by newsmen Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey. As publishers of the Phoenix New Times and Village Voice Media, Larkin and Lacey focused heavily on stories that showcased the lives, issues and plight of undocumented workers.
Among their journalistic pursuits was writing stories that shed light on the brutal and often illegal police tactics that persecuted undocumented workers in Arizona.
A key figure in this was former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a fiercely anti-immigrant lawman who frequently threw out the rule book – including the United States Constitution – in his aggressive harassment and arrest of undocumented workers.
In 2007, Sheriff Arpaio blatantly violated the law by arresting journalists Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin because he did not like the stories they ran exposing the numerous illegal police actions of his deputies. Larkin and Lacey sued and were awarded $3.7 million.
That money is now being used to support groups like Aliento which, ironically, is advocating for the very groups people that were once the focus of police brutality under the auspices of Sheriff Arpaio.
In addition to sponsoring art, Aliento puts on political education workshops, works with community building spaces, promotes leadership development -– with the long-term goal of shifting U.S. immigration policy away from punitive policies and toward solutions based on justice, safety and humanity.