Maricarmen Garza joined Tahirih in 2021 as the Chief of Programs. She previously held a 21-year tenure with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA). As a TRLA attorney, Maricarmen focused her legal practice on assisting survivors of gender-based violence with complex family law and victim privacy matters. She initiated and managed one of TRLA’s most successful, and longstanding projects of the organization, the Legal Alliance for Survivors of Abuse (LASA). LASA is a unique collaboration between TRLA and domestic violence shelters and rape crisis centers in the 68 Texas counties served by TRLA.
Through the LASA Project partnership, Maricarmen ensured that victims received holistic, trauma-informed, and victim centered legal and social services critical to breaking the cycle of violence. In 2010 the LASA project received The Mary Byron Project’s Celebrating Solutions Award for its innovative approach to breaking the generational cycle of intimate partner violence. Maricarmen also managed TRLA’s Victim Rights Group which included the Legal Aid for Survivors of Sexual Assault team and the Survivor Centered Economic Advocacy team, providing direction, mentorship and supervision.
Maricarmen currently serves on the ABA Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence (ABA CDSV) and on the boards of the Texas statewide coalitions for domestic violence (TCFV) and for sexual assault (TAASA). Maricarmen was nominated as a leader of color for her expertise in working at the intersections of domestic violence, child welfare, and race equity to join the National Cohort Women Transforming Families: Rising to End Violence, Oppression, and the Legacy of Trauma, and is a part of the Texas Cohort (TWAIS) as well. She also serves as faculty for the ABA CDSV, trains internationally and nationally on issues impacting victims of gender-based violence, has testified as a domestic violence expert in a civil trial, and was appointed to a state legislative taskforce for her expertise in providing civil legal services to victims (Senate Bill 434 -Texas 82nd Legislature). In 2018, Maricarmen was awarded the Champion for Social Change award by TAASA.
She started her legal career as a staff attorney for Catholic Charities in Houston, representing clients in removal proceedings, VAWA self-petitions, and political asylum cases.
Maricarmen received a Bachelor of Arts in Child Psychology from the University of the Incarnate Word in 1992. She received her J.D. from St. Mary’s University School of Law in 1996.