El Paso family law attorney becomes strong voice for civil rights groups on the border

Lyda+Ness+Garcia+speaks+at+the+2018+Women%E2%80%99s+march+of+El+Paso+on+Jan.+21+at+San+Jacinto+Plaza.

Lyda Ness Garcia speaks at the 2018 Women’s march of El Paso on Jan. 21 at San Jacinto Plaza.

Paulette Villa, Intern

A single mother, a family law attorney, a committee representative and an organizer of a civil rights group—these are all the roles that 46-year-old Lyda Ness-Garcia has in the city of El Paso.

Ness-Garcia was born in North Carolina and moved to Athens, Greece, with her mother at the age of 4. She still has family living in Greece and considers them her most valued memories while living there.

“I think that’s why I fell in love with El Paso because it reminded me of the family connections we have in Greece, with your second cousins, with your third cousins and all this extended family,” Ness-Garcia said. “I would see the same thing here when friends brought me to their family parties.”

Ness-Garcia moved to the U.S. to start high school in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She later graduated in 1992 from the University of Michigan, with a bachelor’s degree in English literature.

“I moved to Austin and started working for an environmental group that sued companies that were polluting in order to make them clean up,” Ness-Garcia said. “I thought, you know you what, I’m going to school and get a law degree to continue doing this.”

While pursuing a law degree at UT Austin, Ness-Garcia worked under the supervision of a practicing attorney at a children’s clinic to represent those in the foster care system.

“I remember I had this client at the time, who was HIV positive, and I learned that if her mother had just taken medication twice during her pregnancy, she wouldn’t have been born HIV positive,” said Ness-Garcia on what influenced her to work for children’s rights.

She graduated from UT Austin in 1997. She had visited El Paso regularly before by going rock climbing at Hueco Tanks. As her first job out of law school, she decided to move to the city in 1998, with the intention of returning to Austin.

“I worked with then-county attorney Jose Rodriguez as an assistant attorney to prosecute child abuse cases,” Ness-Garcia said. “Then I met my ex-husband, but ended up staying because I fell in love with the city.”

In 2002, Ness-Garcia opened her own law offices, currently located in 501 N. Kansas St., to focus on child protective services such as child welfare law and representing parents and children.

“Being a family law lawyer is really emotionally exhausting because people are good people, but they’re the most stressful times,” Ness-Garcia said. “I like doing children’s rights issues because it provides me with perspective and helps me remember there is a bigger picture out there.”

Ness-Garcia has represented El Paso in the State Democratic Executive Committee (SDEC) since 2015. She also ran for state representative in 2014.

“I kept being asked how I was going to be able to be a politician as the state representative if I was a mom,” Ness-Garcia said. “Somehow, I was a bad mother for taking time away from my children and wanting to make this world better, which for me was the exact reason why I was doing it.”

Ness-Garcia felt El Paso was a good community to raise children, and currently has two daughters and a son. She kept her maiden name in order to stay connected with her roots along with her married name to stay connected with her eldest child, the only one from her previous marriage.

“I’ve been blessed to have some really incredible children, who are very socially active in their own way,” Ness-Garcia said. “My oldest daughter went to see Bernie Sanders, reads the news and she comes and tells me what worries her.”

During Donald Trump’s presidential race, Ness-Garcia said her children were worried for their caretaker from Cd. Juárez, believing a wall would be built overnight and not being able to see her again.

“We hear about how dangerous it is that we’re right here with Mexico, not realizing that’s one of the blessed gifts this town offers,” said Ness-Garcia.

During this year’s Women’s March on Jan. 21, Ness-Garcia’s 14-year-old daughter, Ysabella Blue Garcia, had the opportunity to give a speech after the march and suggested that organizers include those in Generation Z.

“I might be young, but I know what I want for my future and I march because I have experienced inequality,” Garcia said at San Jacinto Plaza during the march. “I want to live in a world where others do not dictate my actions.”

Ness-Garcia was one of the organizers of the march, along with Monique Navarro and Linda Rivas, since the start of local sister marches that occurred in conjunction with the women’s march at Washington D.C. in 2017. Besides volunteer training and ordering t-shirts, Ness-Garcia was the mistress of ceremonies for this year’s march, whose national theme was to go out and vote.

“There’s a committee of about 20 of us and we did it in 10 days, we’re all very proud of how hard we all worked to make this successful in such a short time,” Ness-Garcia said. “I’m also proud of the people I got to know there and the passion that’s out here in our community.”

Women’s March El Paso was created as an organization to continue arranging future marches and events for civil rights issues. Their future events will cover a different issue each month in order to mobilize the community.

“There’s not one type of women’s issue. We all have diversity in our religions or colors, creed, belief systems,” Ness-Garcia said. “Between now and then, that’s all we’re doing, is donor letters, trying to get endorsements from political figures and trying to raise money.”

Their current focus is in providing support to students across El Paso and volunteer training for the upcoming March for Life event on March 24 at 3 p.m. in Cleveland Square Park and ending at San Jacinto Plaza. U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke will be speaking at the event.

“I think there’s a lot of women who came before all of us who can be mentors in order to help you find yourself,” Ness-Garcia said. “I think that those kids at Parkland are showing us they did it–they found themselves.”

People interested in being a speaker at the upcoming rally should contact Women’s March El Paso before March 21 on Facebook or at [email protected]