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Political activist Julie Erfle said it would have been easy to join other Valley activists in vilifying immigrants when her police officer husband was killed by an undocumented immigrant in 2007.

Instead, she chose to do what she thought her husband would have wanted.

"His death really sort of brought to the forefront a lot of the simmering feelings around immigration, especially around illegal immigration, and it was really used by a number of groups to advocate against an entire group of people," Erfle said. "I didn’t want his death to be used to divide a community. That is why I got involved."

Since her husband's death, Erfle has been an active advocate of policy reform in the Valley — especially comprehensive immigration reform. She said she has worked with Arizona politicians such as former Gov. Janet Napolitano and former Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon on plans for immigration reform.

Erfle was also involved in David Garcia's campaign for Superintendent of Public Instruction. Now she is the executive director of ProgressNow, a nonprofit progressive political advocacy group.

Stacey Champion, an Arizona ProgressNow board member said Erfle is different than most people involved in Arizona politics.

"I have lot of respect for her," Champion said. "I feel like she is one of the few people in the political sphere who says what a lot of people are thinking that people are afraid to say. I think she is a master of communications and incredibly intelligent."

ProgressNow has 23 state affiliates and is a communications hub for progressive groups.

Erfle received a lot of media attention as a result of her husband's death and her involvement with Arizona politics and comprehensive immigration reform. Sometimes the media attention was negative.

She said in one instance a local radio host, Bruce Jacobs the former host of "NewsTalk 550" KFYI, spent an entire segment criticizing her and her mission.

"There was some negative backlash for sure," Erfle said. "Bruce Jacobs specifically called me out one day. In some ways I expected that because it was such a heated issue, but it doesn’t mean it wasn't very hurtful."

Erfle also spoke to ASU students on Nov. 4 at the Seeking Justice in Arizona series. 

"My goal is to get people interested and excited about participating in a democracy," she said in the lecture. "So many people are so jaded about politics that they decide to give up."

Kerry Melcher is Erfle's personal friend and knew her when her husband died.

"It was chilling and heartbreaking," Melcher said when asked about witnessing Erfle go through her husband's death. "She fought out of that and fought out of that not just for her kids but for herself. She is quite the role model … and she's so much bigger than what happened.”

Related Links:

Seeking Justice in Arizona series promotes local activism through prominent speakers

Superintendent candidate, ASU professor David Garcia discusses state education goals

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