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Sikh Community Appreciates Adrian Garcia with a Fundraiser

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Leaders of the Sikh community with Mayoral candidate, former Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia and his wife Monica at the fundraiser held in the home of organizer Seema and Gurmit Singh Bhatia (to Garcia’s right). Co-organizer and community activist Bobby Singh and his wife Jasmeeta are on the extreme left.

By Jawahar Malhotra

HOUSTON: In a hastily organized event for a late Sunday afternoon, about 50 key members of the local Sikh community came together for a fundraiser for former Harris County Sheriff and City of Houston Mayoral candidate Adrian Garcia at the near northwest home of Seema and Gurmit Singh Bhatia.

Bhatia, a local businessman in medical equipment sales said the city needed “a wonderful CEO, passionate and committed to the community” adding that Garcia had “delivered on every one of our demands as Sheriff”. Garcia had been instrumental in investigating the bungled arrest of a local Sikh woman who had called to report a burglary at her home only to be taken in for wearing an article of Sikh faith, a small ceremonial kirpan (dagger). Garcia made amends by visiting the gurdwara on Prairie Road. This past February, Garcia made national history by allowing a Sikh constable, Sandeep Dhaliwal, to wear his articles of faith in the line of duty as a Harris County officer (see IAN dated Feb. 13, 2015).

Garcia arrived with his wife Monica to meet with the people who were waiting for him this past Sunday, May 31 and lingered to try the appetizers which were catered by Indika restaurant. He cheerfully tried his hand at a few words of Punjabi, introducing his “patni” (wife) and bidding a Sat Sri Akal at the end.

He said that his announcement for running for mayor did not happen overnight but was 35 years in the making. He had been with the Houston Police Department as an officer for 23 years, then spent five years on City Council representing District H before being elected Sheriff of Harris County, a post he served in for six years, getting the highest number of votes in 175 years in the County.

Garcia said that the HCSO was under controversy and distrust when he first became Sheriff and this was felt by the community. Even though there are a hundred languages spoken in this city, he felt that the Sheriff’s office “wasn’t there yet and had to learn how to have an open mind, how to be inclusive and respectful.” He recalled the “tragic interaction with the kirpan, “so I went to meet the community at the gurdwara to say I needed their help. A young man listened that day,” he added referring to Dhaliwal who, unbeknownst to Garcia, sold his business and joined at the basic level in detention.

Garcia proudly spoke of the policy of religious accommodation that his office had crafted and said he was “proud to call Dhaliwal his little brother” and that he “put his life on the line in the line of duty for the people of Harris County.” He then outlined his recent achievements as Sheriff; running a department with 5,000 employees, 9,000 inmates and helping to reduce over $200 million in jail operations alone.

Continuing on, Garcia said he announced his run for mayor to “serve all neighborhoods where people lived, earned a living and started a business,” adding that “we have an incredible mosaic of people, we are One Houston”, the term which is his campaign’s rallying cry. “One Houston knows its best days are still in front of us!”

A key organizer of the fundraiser, community activist Bobby Singh acknowledged Garcia’s concern for the Sikh community as he “aspires to become Mayor and then Governor of Texas”. He asked the community for their generous support to help Garcia reach a peak of contributions that have to be formally reported on June 30; encouraging them to hold similar fundraisers on their own. He was grateful for Garcia’s help in passing the HCSO’s religious accommodation policy which was “news as far away as Canada and Switzerland the next day.” Singh said Garcia had 70 per cent name recognition and quipped that “unlike the other candidates, has no job to go back to in case he doesn’t make it.”

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