Rochelle Garza: Using law as a tool to build
Rochelle Garza, the democratic nominee for Texas Attorney General, is no stranger when it comes to standing up for others. As an attorney, Rochelle fought for the reproductive rights of Jane Doe, an undocumented teenager whose case made national news after the Trump administration denied this teen the rights that were granted to her by the US constitution.
After a lengthy legal battle that went all the way up to the US Supreme Court, Jane Doe’s rights were restored and the “Garza Notice,” which requires the federal government to notify undocumented immigrant teenagers currently detained across the country about their rights to an abortion without retaliation and obstruction, was born.
When asked about the Jane Doe case in front of the Supreme Court, Rochelle had this to say:
“I think a lot of Jane, she was 17 and in an immigration center and she was followed (around) one by one by a staff member, not allowing her to get access to her options. She was being crushed by the Trump administration. The fact that she still stood up for what she wanted and to decide her own fate to get an abortion . . . and then she still won. This allowed all the undocumented teens in custody access to the “Garza Notice” that it is still being upheld today. This is the power of one person - I draw a lot of strength from that experience and the power that we really hold.”
Rochelle Garza grew upin the border city of Brownsville in Texas. Its residents are a bi-national community sharing the Texas-Mexico border with the City of Matamoros located in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas. Rochelle is a fifth generation fronteriza, or borderlander, and currently resides in Brownsville along with her husband Adam and her six-month-old daughter. Those that live in these border communities travel freely between the two cities, sometimes making it a weekend event.
According to Rochelle:
“I grew up in a bilingual community - everyone has families and friends on both sides of the border that live within one mile from the river (Rio Grande River). You don’t quite grasp the differences (between the two cities) until you are much older. You see that there are benefits on one side over the other.”
Rochelle’s father, Robert Garza, a retired State District Judge, was a farmer and a public school teacher who worked his way through law school before running for office. Her mother was also a public school teacher until she decided to quit teaching in order to take care of Rochelle’s brother Robby, who suffered a brain injury during childbirth.
Rochelle’s mother was one of the ‘fiercest women’ she knew, and she credits her mother for teaching her how to be a voice for those in need.
“She had to advocate for Robby so he’d get the healthcare that he needed. Having to fight for basic care and telling me about pain management and caregivers saying he couldn’t feel pain. She had to step in on a one-on-one basis with doctors and caregivers. She was a big advocate in that space, standing up and going to hearings, testifying and holding our elected officials accountable.”
Law was not Rochelle’s first choice when deciding what she wanted to do with her life.
“I originally didn’t want to go to law school and my dad asked me ‘Mijita you should go to law school.’ A couple of years later I ended up going to law school. Once I got into the world, if I really cared about fixing inequity, I had to pick a career that would give me the best opportunity to do that and law school was that for me. The law can be a tool to build and a tool to destroy, I want to use it as a tool to build. All the hard-fought rights like marriage equality, abortion - lawyers used the law to build and protect people and everyone’s humanity was recognized.”
The advice Rochelle’s father gave her all those years ago still rings true today and it’s these following words of wisdom that have carried her and continue to carry her forward:
“Mijita, you’re a woman, you’re from the border and you’re Latina. No one is going to give you anything. You have to take it."
Soon after graduating, Rochelle returned to Brownsville and went on to work with kids fleeing from other countries. She currently practices immigration work, family law, and criminal defense.
Rochelle has a simple philosophy that guides her in life:
“It doesn’t matter where we come from, what language we speak. We all deserve basic dignity, and law is a tool that ensures everyone is treated that way. I see this office -the Attorney General’s office, as a tool to stand up for everyday people and everyday Texans and (ensure) that everyone has a fair shot.”
Currently, Rochelle is campaigning with her family and her baby in tow. When asked how she runs a campaign while also balancing motherhood, this was her response:
“I have a great team and a support system with my husband, who is absolutely wonderful. A great support system that makes sure she has arms to be in and I have the space to breastfeed her or pump. We are in a good place to balance her and spend time with her as much as possible. (We are) making it work and it’s important for me to be out there and talking to folks as well.”
Rochelle could be the first woman and Latina to win this statewide seat in Texas and she wants her campaign to be an example for all Texans. She hopes that “they see themselves in the campaign. They see me as a working mom, they see me with this baby and my husband, Adam. They see themselves in it and they know that I understand what they are going through. Trying to get access to baby formula and holding a job and trying to [breast]feed.”
With the Supreme Court overturning Roe v Wade and sending abortion rights back to the states and Texas’ trigger law banning abortions going into effect, Rochelle would like everyone to remember the following:
“I want to echo what former Texas Governor Ann Richards said, ‘If you’re not at the table, you are on the menu.’ That is the situation with women in the state right now. WE are in a dark place in terms of bodily autonomy, and I don’t want my little girl to not be able to determine her own place in life and that includes reproductive voice. We need to engage and support candidates that are women and pro-choice up and down the ballot and vote like our lives depend on it because they do.”
You can follow Rochelle Garza’s campaign for Texas Attorney General here!