Sylvia Rodriguez Garcia was born on September 6, 1950 in San Diego, Texas. Raised in a low-income family of ten children in the small Texas town of Palito Blanco, Garcia went on to attend Texas Woman’s University on a scholarship and graduated with a degree in Social Work and Political Science in 1972. She then served as a social worker for some time before earning a J.D. from Texas Southern University’s Thurgood Marshall School of Law in 1978.
Garcia attended the National Women’s Conference of 1977 in Houston, an event that represented a watershed moment for the “second wave” feminist movement and its direction regarding issues like abortion, the Equal Rights Amendment, and lesbian rights. Notable attendees included former First Lady Claudia “Lady Bird” Johnson, then-First Lady Rosalyn Carter, tennis pro and social activist Billie Jean King, and feminist icon Gloria Steinem.
After helping Kathy Whitmire become the first woman ever elected as mayor of Houston in 1982, Garcia was appointed by Whitmire to a number of influential positions. Most notably, she served five terms as the director and presiding judge of the Houston Municipal System in the 1980s and 1990s.
In 1992, the Democrat Garcia made an unsuccessful attempt to win a newly created U.S. House seat representing northeast Houston, losing to former Texas State Senator Gene Green, whom she would eventually replace in Congress 27 years later.
Garcia served as Houston’s city controller from 1998 to 2003.
In 2002, she was elected to the influential Harris County (Texas) Commissioners Court. After losing her reelection bid in a stunning upset to a Republican challenger in 2010, Garcia served as state senator for Texas’ District 6 from 2013 to 2018.
Over the course of her political career, Garcia developed a number of known ties to Communist Party affiliates. For example, a 2014 Communist Party USA (CPUSA) convention report, authored by Houston Communist Party (HCP) chairman Bernard Sampson, portrayed his Party’s involvement in Garcia’s successful 2013 State Senate campaign as an encouraging sign that additional Party “comrades” could likewise be elected to public office in the future. And in 2020, Garcia endorsed a CPUSA and HCP member named Penny Morales-Shaw for her run as a Democrat seeking a Texas House seat.
When Texas Governor Greg Abbott in 2017 signed a law banning the establishment of sanctuary cities in his state and authorizing police officers to question a detained person’s immigration status, Garcia said in a statement: “I am afraid that this legislation will lead to harassment and profiling of Latinos. The last thing I want is ‘walking while brown’ to become reasonable suspicion.”
In 2018, Garcia ran for Texas’ 29th Congressional District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Her congressional campaign website laid out her stances on an array of key issues. Some examples:
Also during her 2018 congressional campaign, Garcia: (a) voiced her strong belief that illegal aliens with an otherwise clean criminal record should be granted a path to U.S. citizenship; (b) stated that the Trump Administration’s “zero tolerance” policy of April-to-June 2018 – which stipulated that every adult caught illegally crossing America’s southern border would be subject to criminal prosecution — was “heartless; and (c) voiced her strong opposition to the construction of a border wall, saying: “You can’t be a welcoming country, providing for children, and still want a wall. They’re two different messages.”
In November 2018, Garcia was elected to represent Texas’ 29th Congressional District. She won 75% of the vote, trouncing Republican opponent Phillip Aronoff and replacing Democrat Gene Green, who had just retired after 26 years in Congress.
Garcia invited a DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) beneficiary as her official guest to the State of the Union address delivered by President Trump in January 2019. “When the conversation in Washington seems focused on billions of dollars for a border wall, we must remember that the people so often put in the center of the negotiating table have hopes, dreams, fears, and goals just like every other American,” the congresswomen remarked. She also called upon her fellow lawmakers to recognize the humanity of illegal aliens, and to “honor their commitment to our country by giving them a roadmap to citizenship once and for all.”
In February 2019, Garcia joined a Democrat effort led by Rep. Joaquin Castro to invalidate President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency on the U.S. border with Mexico — a declaration that Trump had used as a means of accessing the funds that were needed to build a wall along that border. Claiming that there was in fact “no emergency at the border,” Garcia characterized Trump’s declaration as “an irresponsible and dangerous abuse of power that undermines our democracy.”
In March 2019, Garcia was a co-sponsor of the American Dream and Promise Act, legislation that “cancels and prohibits removal proceedings against certain aliens and provides such aliens with a path toward permanent resident status.” Asserting that illegal-alien beneficiaries of the DACA, Temporary Protected Status, and Deferred Enforced Departure programs “are Americans in their hearts and have only known this country as their home,” she claimed that the U.S. had an “obligation to create a pathway to citizenship for them.”
In recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month during September 2019, Garcia stressed the need for Latinos to “make [their] voices heard by registering to vote and getting out to the polls” in order to “fight back against this President’s [Trump’s] racist and anti-immigrant policies.”
In October 2019, Garcia introduced the Polling Access and Safety Act (PASA) to “prevent immigration enforcement from being used as a voter intimidation tactic.” Designed to “protect eligible voters’ sense of security at the polls and encourage free and fair elections,” this legislation included the following provisions, as articulated by a Garcia press release:
In February 2020, Garcia joined Rep. Joaquin Castro and other House Democrats in calling for the designation of “National Citizenship Month,” a resolution that called for the “modernization and streamlining” of the naturalization process. Garcia, for her part, declared that she would “continue to do everything possible to ensure that every person who comes to America and calls her home can have access to the naturalization process.”
In November 2020, Garcia helped introduce the End Transfers of Detained Immigrants Act, which sought to “immediately prevent Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from transferring immigrant detainees between ICE facilities or to federal, state, and local prisons during the [COVID-19] pandemic.” One provision of this bill, which was designed to help “slow the spread of the virus,” required that “if physical distancing inside ICE facilities is not possible, [then] individuals [therein should] be released to ensure adherence to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.”
In July 2019, Garcia voted in favor of the Raise the Wage Act, which aimed to increase the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour.
In response to the infamous May 2020 death of George Floyd , a black civilian who had died in the course of a physical encounter with a white police officer in Minneapolis, Garcia stated that “we still have too much work to do in putting an end to racism, white supremacy, and police brutality in America.” Moreover, she pledged to “stand with [her] black brothers and sisters and won’t stop fighting alongside [them] until justice is guaranteed for all black Americans.”
To combat “police brutality,” Garcia co-sponsored Democrat legislation such as the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, the Eric Garner Excessive Use of Force Prevention Act of 2019, the Police Training and Independent Review Act, the George Floyd Law Enforcement Trust and Integrity Act of 2020, and H. Res. 988 – “Condemning all acts of police brutality, racial profiling, and the use of excessive and militarized force throughout the country.”
In January 2020, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi named Garcia as one of the seven House Democrat impeachment managers tasked with laying out the case for impeaching President Trump. “Trump is a clear and present danger to our democracy,” claimed Garcia, “and he must be held accountable.” Garcia even went so far as to claim that the president’s criticisms of the impeachment inquiry in his tweets and during press conferences constituted impeachable “obstruction of Congress” offenses.
Garcia was easily reelected to Congress in November 2020, winning 71% of the vote in her district.
While claiming that her Catholic faith informs her political views, Garcia has been consistently at odds with Church teaching vis-a-vis such matters as abortion, sexuality, the definition of marriage, and religious liberty. Identifying as a “pro-choice Catholic,” Garcia has an extensive record of supporting abortion access. For example:
She also supports the controversial Obamacare mandate which would force employers to provide their workers with healthcare plans that cover the costs of contraceptives and abortifacients regardless of any religious or moral objections the employers may have to such a requirement.
In November 2021, Garcia introduced the Protect Intersex Children Act, which “would prohibit medically unnecessary surgeries on intersex children in the foster care system.” Acknowledging the “invasive surgeries and lifelong consequences” that such children may experience, Garcia condemned the procedure as a “clear violation of bodily autonomy” against children’s “consent.” “Intersex children should be able to grow up and make their own decisions about their bodies when they are old enough to do so,” Garcia argued.
Garcia is a member of the League of Women Voters. She is also a former president of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.
For an overview of Garcia’s positions on an array of key issues, click here.