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Ocasio-Cortez presses case that U.S. is running ‘concentration camps’ at border amid Republican outcry

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) prepares to wait tables at the Queensboro Restaurant in New York in May.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) prepares to wait tables at the Queensboro Restaurant in New York in May. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) pressed her case Tuesday that the Trump administration is running “concentration camps” at the U.S.-Mexico border amid criticism from Republicans who said she was demeaning Jews exterminated in the Holocaust.

During a live stream Monday night, the freshman lawmaker decried the conditions of migrant detention facilities the administration is using to cope with a surge of border crossings and highlighted a decision to hold some children at an Oklahoma Army base that was used as an internment camp for Japanese Americans during World War II.

The same base was briefly used to house migrant children during the Obama administration.

“The fact that concentration camps are now an institutionalized practice in the home of the free is extraordinarily disturbing, and we need to do something about it,” Ocasio-Cortez told her viewers on Instagram. She later accused Trump of conducting “an authoritarian and fascist presidency.”

“I don’t use those words lightly,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “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. A presidency that creates concentration camps is fascist, and it’s very difficult to say that.”

Ocasio-Cortez continued making her argument Tuesday morning, sharing on Twitter an Esquire article that raised questions about the conditions at U.S. detention facilities.

The piece by Jack Holmes, the magazine’s politics editor, quoted historians who said the facilities meet the definition of a “concentration camp” and said that not every concentration camp is intended as a death camp.

In another tweet, Ocasio-Cortez dismissed critics of her views as “shrieking Republicans.”

Among those who weighed in was Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the No. 3 Republican in the House.

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

Ocasio-Cortez fired back shortly afterward.

“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?” Ocasio-Cortez wrote. “How would you dress up DHS’s mass separation of thousands children at the border from their parents?”

Cheney soon replied.

“Happy to educate you,” she wrote on Twitter, suggesting Ocasio-Cortez read survivor testimonies from Yad Vashem in Jerusalem and the book “Night” by Elie Wiesel, an autobiographical account of his survival as a teenager in Nazi concentration camps.

“Here’s an Amazon link to make it easy for you to purchase,” Cheney wrote.

Ocasio-Cortez also drew heavy criticism Tuesday from several commentators on Fox News, including anchor Bill Hemmer.

Hemmer seized on the fact that Ocasio-Cortez used the phrase “never again” during her live stream on Instagram.

“‘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,” Hemmer said on air. “How in the world is that acceptable? Does she not owe every Jew on this planet an apology?”

Correction: A previous version of this report incorrectly identified Rep. Liz Cheney’s home state. She is from Wyoming.

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