Standing near the Peace Bridge on Thursday, Republican Chele Farley criticized U.S. Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand for recently calling on the federal government to “get rid of” the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
Gillibrand, who’s up for reelection, late last week said it’s time to “reimagine” ICE, which has come under fire for separating immigrant families at the country’s southwestern border.
State GOP leaders say Gillibrand is considering a 2020 presidential bid, and Farley — who’s challenging the senator in midterm elections in November — said Gillibrand is ignoring New Yorkers by prioritizing her political ambitions.
The Democratic senator is “pandering” to the “extreme left’s agenda,” added Nick Langworthy, chairman of the Erie County Republican Committee.
Farley in Buffalo called Gillibrand the “ICE Queen.”
“I think she’s out of touch with New York voters,” said Farley, of Gillibrand.
A spokesman for Gillibrand’s campaign Thursday said the senator agrees with 19 ICE agents who recently wrote to Kirstjen Nielsen, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, saying President Donald Trump’s immigration policy harms ICE’s mission of focusing on transnational criminal organizations.
“Let’s be clear, Border Patrol handles border security, not ICE. However, under President Trump's direction, ICE is out of control separating families away from the border and is not working for New York,” said Glen Caplin, the Gillibrand spokesman, in a statement to The Buffalo News.
Farley, during a news conference Thursday in Broderick Park, standing beside Langworthy, said Gillibrand’s calls to abolish ICE could hurt cities like Buffalo.
ICE plays an important role in border security, and four U.S.-Canada border crossings are in the Buffalo Niagara region, Farley said. She did not mention the concerns regarding ICE along the U.S.’s southwestern border.
The Republican Senate candidate also said ICE is an effective law enforcement apparatus, and the agency has helped arrest dangerous members of the violent MS-13 gang on Long Island.
Caplin said members of MS-13 are criminals, and they should be prosecuted, but MS-13 should not be equated to “people fleeing gang violence or domestic violence seeking asylum.”
The press conference came a few hours after Republican U.S. Rep. Chris Collins endorsed Farley. Collins represents the 27th Congressional District.
“Chele Farley is a Washington outsider with the skills and experience to shake up the Washington status quo,” said Collins, of Clarence. Farley has locked down several other GOP endorsements.
Farley is a partner in the Mistral Capital International private equity firm, and a Stanford University-educated engineer.
She was officially nominated by the state GOP in March.
Gillibrand’s campaign had about $10 million in cash on hand as of the end of June, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Farley’s campaign had just over $450,000 in cash on hand at that time.
The senator also holds a 27 percentage point lead over Farley in the race, according to a Quinnipiac poll conducted in mid-July.