NEWARK, NJ — The history of Hispanic Americans in the United States has been "overlooked" at best and "erased" at worst. But the creation of a National Latino Museum would be a big step in the right direction, Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey says.


On Tuesday, Menendez, who has an office in Newark and is the highest-ranked Latino in Congress, testified before the Senate Rules Committee in favor of the National Museum of the American Latino Act.


The proposed law would authorize the Smithsonian Institution to create a museum honoring American Latinos. It would also clear the way for the museum to offer grants and educational programs.


The bill gained bipartisan approval and was approved by the House of Representatives in July, but has since stalled in the Senate, although it gained support from New Jersey's other U.S. senator, Cory Booker.


It's not the first time that Menendez has pushed for the project to move forward. In 2008, a 23-member commission was established to study the viability of such a museum. Menendezintroduced legislation to establish a Latino museum in 2011 following the commission's report that determined the museum's creation was indeed feasible.


The senator introduced similar legislation again in 2013, 2016, and 2017 before the current bill was introduced last year. And he hasn't given up the charge.


"I firmly believe that it's time that Hispanic Americans get their own world-class museum on the National Mall, built and administered to the standards that only the Smithsonian Institution can uphold," Menendez told the committee on Tuesday.


"Now is the time for this Congress to finish what it started almost two decades ago," Menendezcontinued. "No one can deny that the 60 million Latino Americans living in this country will continue to shape America's future, just as we have shaped America's past. From day one, Hispanics have shaped this nation in countless ways – as military leaders, as pioneers in business and the arts, as activists and elected officials. Yet, the history and contributions of Hispanic Americans to the United States since its inception have been at-best overlooked and at-worst, erased."