The race for justice of the peace in western Hidalgo County involves two candidates with impressive credentials — but the Republican candidate’s resume comes with an asterisk.
Businessman J.J. Peña, who’s running as a Democrat, serves on the La Joya school board and spent six years as a municipal judge in Palmview.
His opponent, Republican candidate Arminda “Mindy” Garza, graduated from high school at 14 years old and became a registered nurse at 16 years old, according to her Facebook page. She now works as a tax preparer and immigration consultant.
Garza, though, isn’t a registered nurse in Texas.
“I have my degree in Mexico,” Garza said, adding that she never claimed to be a registered nurse in the United States.
After studying medicine in Reynosa as a teenager, Garza said she pursued a different career and didn’t take the steps required to become a registered nurse in Texas.
Garza posted her biography on Facebook last month, touting her experience and credentials. It begins: “Graduate from Excel High School at the age of 14 and a Registered Nurse at the age of 16.”
The “About” section of her Facebook page includes a slightly different biography that references her education in Mexico: “She graduated from Excel High School, and Jose Jose Y Cadena Escuela de Enfermeria.”
Garza said she didn’t see any problem with calling herself a registered nurse.
“I never stated that I was a registered nurse in the state of Texas,” Garza said, adding that she proudly displays her diploma from Mexico.
Peña, however, said Garza is misrepresenting herself to voters.
“I think you need to be truthful with your credentials when you’re running,” Peña said. “You’re lying to the public. Run on your merits. There’s nothing wrong with not being a nurse and not being educated. Just be truthful and be honest.”
Mexico holds nurses to different standards.
The Texas Board of Nursing requires nurses from other nations to submit an application, pass an English proficiency exam and provide license information from the country where the nurse became certified. If the information passes muster, the nurse may take the National Council Licensure Examination for registered nurses.
“There’s nothing wrong with being an RN in Mexico,” Peña said. “Just disclose it.”