PHOENIX – Julie Erfle has been slammed by conservative groups because, though her husband, a Phoenix policeman, was slain by an undocumented immigrant, she promotes immigration reform.
Officer Nick Erfle died on Sept. 18, 2007, after being shot while trying to make an arrest on the street.
The 33-year-old Erfle and another officer approached three suspicious-looking people who were obstructing traffic.
One of them gave a false name and turned out to have an outstanding arrest warrant, for which the police immediately proceeded to take him into custody. At that point he took out a gun and fired two shots at Erfle.
The man then carjacked a passing vehicle, took the driver hostage and fled. The suspect was gunned down hours later in a clash with police.
The case came as a shock to people in Arizona, above all when the killer was identified as Erik Jovani Martinez, an undocumented Mexican with a criminal record who had previously been deported in 2006 and had return illegally to the United States.
“Those were very difficult times for me and my two children after the death of my husband, who was a cancer survivor,” Julie Erfle told Efe.
After the tragic incident she dedicated herself to her children and kept silent until, tired of her husband’s name being used to promote what she termed “hate” against immigrants, she started studying up on immigration.
“I learned there are many levels to the subject of immigration and many mistaken beliefs about how an immigrant can enter this country legally. The choices they have these days are really limited,” she said.
Erfle said she understands the frustration that many states like Arizona feel about immigration, which led to state laws like SB1070 being passed, but stressed that the problem can only be resolved at the federal level.
Conservative groups and politicians say that the undocumented cost taxpayers millions of dollars because they receive medical care and education for their kids.
SB1070, the first in the country to criminalize the presence of undocumented immigrants and which went into effect in July 2010, has served as a model for other states like Georgia and Alabama to pass even tougher measures against the undocumented.
“I’m convinced that the only solution is to start a debate that gets us to immigration reform,” said Erfle, who also supports the DREAM Act, which if passed would give legal status to qualified undocumented students.
“It seems to me no one ever talks about the positive impact that immigrants have on the economy of the United States,” the new activist, who plans to speak next month at a conference on immigration in Yuma, Arizona, said.
Erfle’s position has made her the target of harsh criticism from conservative groups, who have even called her “a disgrace” to the memory of her husband.
I don’t see why so many people want to tar all immigrants with the same brush, as if they were all the same as the one who killed my husband, Erfle said. EFE