After a long and contentious campaign for Attorney General, no one would fault Rochelle Garza for taking a break to rest and rejuvenate. Instead, the civil rights attorney did the exact opposite and became the President of the Texas Civil Rights Project (TCRP).
TCRP, which was established in 1990, plays a crucial role in defending civil rights throughout Texas with a unique “community-lawyering” structure. They have five offices throughout the state and have been instrumental as a bulwark against a hostile state government. Last year, Mimi Marziani announced she was stepping down from the organization and a search committee was formed to locate a new President.
The Signal spoke with Garza, who officially started her new role on February 1. She said it was an “honor” to lead an organization that is at the forefront of voting rights, criminal justice reform, and ensuring that border communities are treated with respect. “I am incredibly proud to lead this organization and to make good on my campaign promises of fighting for civil rights in Texas, and building a Texas that is big enough for all of us,” said Garza.
Garza acknowledges that the structure of TCRP with its community lawyering model is “unique,” and provides a lot of opportunities to partner with groups like LUPE, an immigrant advocate network. Currently, TCRP is tracking over 700 bills in the Texas legislature.
Last week they were at the Capitol testifying against Senate Bill 147, which would prohibit people from Iran, North Korea, Russia, and China from purchasing property in Texas. According to Garza, SB 147 is a blatant “violation of our Constitution.” She also underscored how it would heighten anti-Asian and anti-immigrant sentiment at a time when AAPI communities have been particularly targeted.
During her run for Attorney General, Garza emphasized the importance of voting rights, and was forceful in her opposition against suppression bills like Senate Bill 1. Texas is already one of the hardest places to vote, and just one of a handful of states that has no online voter registration.
Now the legislature could pass another voter suppression bill that would make it a felony if somebody voted not knowing they were ineligible to do so. For Garza, that’s a step in the wrong direction. “We should make it easier to vote.”
The end of the legislative session is quickly approaching, and there are perhaps some special sessions looming beyond that. TCRP is committed to continuing their role as an advocate for a better and more hospitable Texas. With Garza at the helm, that role will continue to flourish. As for Garza, she calls herself an “eternal optimist” that believes a better Texas is possible. “We’ve got to fight for the Texas that we deserve.”
A longtime writer and journalist, Jessica was thrilled to join the Texas Signal where she could utilize her unique perspective on politics and culture. As the Features and Opinion Editor, she is responsible for coordinating editorials and segments from diverse authors. She is also the host of the podcast the Tex Mix, as well as the co-host for the weekly SignalCast. Jessica attended Harvard College, is a onetime fitness blogger, and has now transitioned to recreational runner (for which her joints are thankful).