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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez calls migrant detention ‘concentration camps’



Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez doubled down on her argument that President Donald Trump is running “concentration camps” to detain migrants and that his administration is “authoritarian and fascist” on Tuesday.

“Never again means something … the fact that concentration camps are now an institutionalized practice in the home of the free is extraordinarily disturbing,” the lawmaker said during an Instagram Live discussion on Monday night, adding that the Trump presidency is “and fascist.”

She went on, “I don’t use those words lightly. I don’t use those words to just throw bombs. I use that word because that is what an administration that creates concentration camps is.”

Ocasio-Cortez referenced reports that the Trump administration will detain hundreds of migrant children at Oklahoma’s Fort Sill military base, which was used to intern Japanese-Americans during World War II.

The Obama administration expanded the practice of immigrant family detention, and used Fort Sill to detain migrants during a surge in border crossings in 2014. Oklahoma Republicans were opposed to holding migrants at Fort Sill at the time.

“Fort Sill is not designed for this purpose, and turning the facility into a longer-term solution for housing these minors is extremely concerning,” GOP Rep. Markwayne Mullin said in 2014.

“Never Again”?

Ocasi0-Cortez’s remarks sparked significant criticism from many, including some pundits and Republican lawmakers, who argued it’s wrong to compare the US government’s immigrant detention to Nazi Germany’s genocide.

“‘Never Again’ is the phrase that Jews all over the world use to make sure that the extermination between 1939 and 1945 never happens again, and she’s using concentration camps to describe what’s happening on the southern border,” Fox anchor Bill Hemmer said on Tuesday. “How in the world is that acceptable? Does she not owe every Jew on this planet an apology?”

Read more: The Trump administration will detain hundreds of migrant children at a military base that was once used as a Japanese internment camp

But Ocasio-Cortez stood by her comments on Tuesday, accusing “shrieking Republicans” of not knowing the difference between concentration camps used for internment and death camps used for genocide.

“Concentration camps are not the same as death camps. This is an important distinction. One of the biggest lessons from that dark history is that it didn’t happen overnight. It emerged out of slow, increasingly concerning steps that acclimated the public to inhumane treatment,” she wrote, linking to a recent Esquire piece that cites historians defining the migrant shelters as concentration camps, or facilities for “mass detention of civilians without trial.”

Maria Lila Meza Castro, a 39-year-old migrant woman from Honduras, runs away from tear gas with her five-year-old twin daughters at the US-Mexico border in November 2018.
REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/File photo

The progressive congresswoman later exchanged barbs with Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, who accused the New York Democrat of demeaning Holocaust victims.

Read more: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had a surprisingly muted response to Biden’s conduct with women and girls: ‘Not necessarily about right or wrong’

“Please @AOC do us all a favor and spend just a few minutes learning some actual history. 6 million Jews were exterminated in the Holocaust,” Cheney wrote. “You demean their memory and disgrace yourself with comments like this.”

Ocasio-Cortez shot back, “Hey Rep. Cheney, since you’re so eager to ‘educate me,’ I’m curious: What do YOU call building mass camps of people being detained without a trial? How would you dress up DHS’s mass separation of thousands children at the border from their parents?”

Cheney replied, “Happy to educate you,” and recommended she read Holocaust survivor testimonies and the book “Night” by Elie Wiesel.

A fierce debate over Ocasio-Cortez’s comments

A Twitter debate over the merits of Ocasio-Cortez’s argument continued on Tuesday.

Some rejected her argument as disrespectful of Jews and a misreading of history.

[email protected] No no no. The detention centers were bad enough under Obama, and they have gotten monumentally worse under Trump. It’s a stain on our soul,” national security lawyer Bradley P. Moss wrote in a tweet he later deleted. “But these are not the concentration camps. These are not gas chambers. Don’t disrespect Jews, Catholics and gypsies like that.”

Others defended the US government’s practice of detaining migrants, including children.

“Who knew that ‘never again’ means we shouldn’t temporarily hold illegal migrants at the border before, by and large, releasing them into the country, often never to be seen again?” wrote Rich Lowry, editor of the conservative National Review.

Meanwhile others, including some Jews and descendants of Holocaust survivors, defended Ocasio-Cortez’s argument, emphasizing the distinction between concentration camps and the death camps used to exterminate millions of Jews and others during the Holocaust.

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