The chairman of the Rhode Island Republican Hispanic Assembly, Ivan Marte, has resigned from his position and left the G.O.P. following a Republican Congressman's outburst during an address by President Obama.
Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., shouted, "You lie!" during Obama's speech to Congress about health care earlier this month, when Obama said health care reform would not benefit undocumented immigrants. The moment became a flashpoint for partisan rancor, with most Democrats condemning Wilson and many Republicans defending him.
Marte told The Herald his increasing resentment towards the Republican party was the underlying reason for his resignation. "I thought that was very uncivilized on his part,"
Marte said of Wilson's outburst. "I felt ashamed to belong to the same party."
Marte emigrated from the Dominican Republic at age 16 and has been a Republican for over 20 years.
"I have been disenchanted for a while," he said. "The Republican Party needs to reevaluate itself," he added, describing the party as unchanged since the 1880s.
Participation, however, is crucial in changing a political party, said Giovanni Cicione, the state Republican chairman. "We welcome dissent; we don't demand 100 percent (adherence). Our 80 percent friend is not a 20 percent enemy."
Describing himself as "surprised" and "disappointed" by the resignation, Cicione said he would be open to Marte's return to the party. "He's a good Republican," Cicione said.
But the exclusion of minorities — on both a national and local level — that Marte saw became too much for him, he said. He expressed severe disappointment with Gov. Donald Carcieri's '65 lack of outreach to the Hispanic community in Rhode Island and a recent crackdown on undocumented immigrants by the state government under Carcieri's administration.
Amy Kempe, a spokesperson for Carcieri, declined to comment on Marte's resignation.
A 2008 executive order signed by Carcieri aimed to prevent undocumented immigrants from working in Rhode Island and causing an undue burden on the state. Additionally, the order permits Rhode Island state police officers, after training, to undertake the same actions as Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, including raids.
Prior to the crackdown, the governor had asked Marte to prepare a report on how to best approach the Hispanic community, Marte said. None of his recommendations were subsequently enacted, he said.
"The governor gets advice from a lot of people," Cicione said, adding that he commends the governor's immigration policy.
Since he quit, Marte's inbox has been "bombarded" by more than 400 messages of support, primarily from Hispanics, he said. "People are giving me a lot of support for standing up against this kind of misbehavior," he said.