Garcia creates committee to consult on ICE issues

HOUSTON Since implementing 287(g) in August 2008, the Sheriff's Office has identified over 17,400 inmates who could have been in the country illegally. They were detained for Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, to later to determine their immigration status once their criminal cases were resolved.

"We are working every day to make sure that concerns of racial profiling are not part of this program," said Sheriff Garcia.

To that end, he announced the creation of a 13 member advisory committee which will look at how 287 (g) is implemented and make recommendations to the sheriff on ways it could work better.

"Their advice to me will be to make sure that we are implementing the program as prescribed by and envisioned by ICE and by me, so we can make sure Harris County is free of controversy," Sheriff Garcia said.

He said his office has received no complaints specific to the way the program is implemented at the jail, only critics who argue about the 287(g) in general.

"In this case, the sheriff failed to include any of the people that are involved with 287(g) and really know about the issue," said Silvia Mintz, an immigration attorney.

Mintz, who has spoken publicly on behalf of Pastores en Accion against 287(g), notes that only two of those on the panel are Hispanic, and she claims none are well versed on the law.

"I see many successful people in the committee and I don't know if the sheriff is just trying to increase his fundraising abilities or if it's for show or what," Mintz said.

The sheriff says this is an ethnic and religious cross section of Harris County, business and community leaders whom he trusts. The chairman, Beto Cardenas, has served on the political affairs team of the Bill Clinton White House, as general counsel to U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and has been a national voice on immigration reform.

"We're not here to debate the critics or proponents. We're here to listen and look at the application of the law," said Cardenas.

The sheriff wasn't clear on just what power this advisory committee will have other than offering him feedback on the implementation of the 287(g) program. Creation of such a committee is not required by law and so its findings are not necessarily acted upon.

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