Hispanic Americans in Congress, 1822-1995
Robert Menendez, the son of Cuban immigrants, was born on January 1, 1954 in New York City. He moved to Union City, New Jersey, where he attended public schools and graduated from Union Hill High School in 1972. Four years later he graduated from St. Peter's College and in 1979 he received a J.D. degree from Rutgers University. The following year he was admitted to the bar and began to practice law. In 1974, while he was still in college, he won his first elective office as a member of the Board of Education of Union City, New Jersey. From 1986 to 1992 he served as mayor of Union City, while simultaneously serving in the New Jersey State General Assembly from 1987 to 1991 and in the New Jersey Senate from 1991 to 1993, becoming the first Hispanic to serve in the New Jersey Legislature.
In 1987 Menendez was honored by the National Conference of Mayors for his work in promoting the city's financial aid to non-profit day-care centers. In 1992 he was elected with sixty-four percent of the vote to the U.S. House of Representatives, becoming the first Hispanic from New Jersey to serve in Congress. In the 103rd Congress he was named to the Foreign Affairs Committee, which is of particular interest to his Cuban-American constituents. He worked to maintain the embargo on Cuba, and also sponsored a bill to provide assistance to the people of Cuba once a transitional government, pledged to democracy, is in power. He also won a seat on the Public Works and Transportation Committee and serves on three Subcommittees, including Economic Development. He advocates policies that foster economic growth in poor urban areas and is a supporter of free enterprise zones. In other areas of economic reform he favors environmental protection and the promotion of a high-technology infrastructure. He was reelected to the 104th Congress with seventy-one percent of the vote.
In January 2006, newly elected New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine appointed Menendez to fill his seat in the U.S. Senate, making him the third Hispanic Senator at the time and the first ever from New Jersey.
Official U.S. Senate Web Site: Robert Menendez