Cynthia Nixon called the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency a “terrorist organization” on Thursday as she pushed for its abolishment.
The Sex and the City actress, who is campaigning to be the governor of New York, tweeted that “ICE is a terrorist organization and its egomaniacal leader is Donald Trump,” adding that she had started a “petition to #AbolishICE.“
Nixon, 52, first made the comment at St. Paul and St. Andrew United Methodist Church on New York City’s Upper West Side. She was there to speak in support of Debora Vasquez-Barrios, a Guatemalan immigrant and mother of two American kids she said she feared would be deported.
“ICE has strayed so far away from its mission,” said Nixon, NY1 News reported. “It is supposed to be here to keep Americans safe, but what it has turned into frankly is a terrorist organization of its own that is terrorizing people who are coming to this country.”
The Democratic hopeful also appeared on The View earlier in the day, where she discussed the nation’s immigration crisis.
“Children just aren’t being separated at the border, they’re being separated throughout this country by ICE,” she said. “I think we need to abolish ICE. That seems really clear. ICE is relatively new. They came in after Sept. 11 — we’d been handling immigration and customs for a long time here. We don’t need ICE.”
“They have strayed so far from the interests of the American people and the interests of humanity,” she added. “We need to abolish it. In New York State and across the country, there are things we can be doing on the ground to protect our undocumented people.”
Nixon’s impassioned plea to abolish ICE comes amid a sea of outrage over President Trump‘s since-reversed “zero-tolerance” family separation policy, which has seen thousands of children forcibly removed from their parents who were caught crossing into the U.S. and held at processing detention centers run by the Department of Homeland Security.
Images of the detention centers quickly spread on social media this month, sparking stars like Eva Longoria, Nicki Minaj, Jada Pinkett Smith, Jim Carrey and Arnold Schwarzenegger to speak out and slam the Trump administration for its immigration policy.
“We are keeping families together,” Trump said in the Oval Office, where he was joined by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Vice President Mike Pence. “This will solve that problem. At the same time, we are keeping a very powerful border and it continues to be a zero tolerance. We have zero tolerance for people who enter our country illegally.”
Trump had previously said that only Democrats can fix the migrant-child crisis, claiming they were responsible for his “zero-tolerance” policy.
However, as The New York Times notes, there was actually never a law that says children must be taken away from their parents at the border. In fact, it was the Trump administration’s decision to prosecute asylum seekers who enter the U.S. at the border that has led to parents being sent into criminal custody and separated from their children.
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Nixon announced her candidacy for governor on March 19. She is challenging Gov. Cuomo for the Democratic nomination. The state primary will take place on Sept. 13.
If she wins, Nixon will be the first openly gay woman to hold the position.
“Women have to lead and speak up,” Nixon, a mother of three, told PEOPLE exclusively in March. “I just think we need to have more people of color and women and LGBT people not just represented — but leading. If we want to fix our world, they know what’s wrong with it because they’ve been on the short end of the stick.”
During an appearance on The Wendy Williams Show in April, Nixon said that Trump’s election shook her and served as a “wake-up call” for getting into politics.
“I love New York,” she said. “I believe so much in New York and I believe that we’re a real progressive bastion. … If we don’t like the direction our government is going in, we have to step up and get involved like never before. That’s what I’m doing.”