Omar: Don't know why AOC's concentration camps comment is controversial

Last week, Ocasio-Cortez equated the migrant camps set up on the US-Mexico border with concentration camps on a live Instagram video.

June 24, 2019 10:26
4 minute read.
Omar: Don't know why AOC's concentration camps comment is controversial

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) participates in a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, US, April 10, 2019. (photo credit: JIM BOURG/ REUTERS)


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Rep. Ilhan Omar said she did not understand why people were upset by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez's comments calling detention centers holding undocumented immigrants on the southern border “concentration camps.”

"There are camps, and people are being concentrated," Omar said to an interviewer from The Rebel Media, a far-right media group. "This is very simple. I don't know why this is a controversial thing to say."

"We have to truly speak about what is taking place and this why it’s really important for us to abolish ICE so that we have an agency that is accountable to the people, that is dealing with the situation in a humane way. There is no way that we can allow for kids to be caged in this country and children to be separated from their families, and people being terrorized in their communities. We have to make sure that we are calling them out. And I am a hundred percent with Alex."

Last week, Ocasio-Cortez equated the migrant camps set up on the US-Mexico border with concentration camps on a live Instagram video. 

“That is exactly what they are: they are concentration camps and if that doesn’t bother you, then [I don’t know],” she said as she gestured, adding that she was speaking to those who “are concerned enough with humanity to say that ‘Never Again’ means something and... that concentration camps are now an institutionalized practice in the Home of the Free [United States].”

"I don't use those words lightly," Ocasio-Cortez explained. "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,” she said, highlighting that a presidency that “creates concentration camps is fascist, and it's very difficult to say that."

On her twitter, Ocasio-Cortez posted an article of where author and expert on the history of concentration camps Andrea Pitzer explained to Esquire that the definition of a concentration camp is mass detention of civilians without trial, exactly what Ocasio-Cortez said is happening in the US southern border.
Ocasio-Cortez's comments drew immediate backlash from Jews and politicians.

Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., tweeted at Ocasio-Cortez to “do us all a favor and spend just a few minutes learning some actual history. 6 million Jews were exterminated in the Holocaust. You demean their memory and disgrace yourself with comments like this.”

Ocasio-Cortez retorted, “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?”

A Polish MP as well as a Poland-born Holocaust survivor have invited Ocasio-Cortez to go and see and learn about concentration camps in-person. 

Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust museum, urged Ocasio-Cortez to “learn about concentration camps.” 

However, some Jewish organizations came to Ocasio-Cortez' defense. 

“Whether we call them concentration camps, mass detention centers, or cages for children, they are a moral abomination,” the CEO of The liberal Jewish group Bend the Arc: Jewish Action, Stosh Cotler, said in a statement. “The real question is not what we call these mass detention sites growing all over the country, the question is: what is every government official and citizen doing to stop this evil? Our government is scapegoating, demonizing, and terrorizing immigrants. These policies echo the worst of Jewish history and the worst of American history. Anyone distracting from these clear facts with manufactured outrage is subverting Jewish history and trauma, and that is shameful.”

According to a Department of Homeland Security fact sheet, migrant children and parents may be separated when “individuals who are believed to have committed any crime, including illegal entry,” are “referred to the Department of Justice.” DHS then transfers children to the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, where they are held in a “temporary shelter” until a sponsor can be found for the child.

Reports suggest these shelters include large centers with dormitory-like accommodations. Meanwhile, the adults are held in what the government calls “detention facilities” pending hearings.

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