“The last thing we need is to further divide an already divided nation within an array of separate but equal museums of hyphenated identity groups,” Lee said. “At this moment, in the history of our diverse nation, we need our federal government and the Smithsonian Institution itself to pull us closer together and not further apart.”

Menendez shot back at Lee, saying that he was standing “in the way of the hopes and dreams and aspirations of seeing Americans of Latino descent having their dreams fulfilled and recognized.”

“I don’t know if these arguments were made against the Native Americans. I don’t know if these arguments were made against African Americans, but I don’t see them as being separate and apart,” Menendez said. “I see them as part of the collective history mosaic that is coming together under the Smithsonian.”