WASHINGTON — Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) defended her comparison between detention centers on the southern border for illegal immigrants and concentration camps, explaining that she’s “absolutely comfortable” with using the term, despite its association with the Holocaust.
“The United States is running concentration camps on our southern border and that is exactly what they are,” Ocasio-Cortez said during an Instagram live video on Monday.
Some Republican members of Congress such as Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) criticized Ocasio-Cortez for making that comparison.
“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. You demean their memory and disgrace yourself with comments like this,” Cheney wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.
Ocasio-Cortez responded to the criticism she has received from Republicans.
“I’m absolutely comfortable using that term because it is rooted in an academic definition. Often times when the term concentration camp is evoked what people think of are extermination camps, they think of Auschwitz,” she said on Capitol Hill.
“I think what we need to realize is, is that one of the biggest lessons we learned from both Holocaust historians and civil rights academics and experts is that it takes a process, a slow gradual process of increasingly dehumanizing steps, and once you have convinced an electorate or once you have convinced a community that a certain group of people are bad or less than it justifies and it allows people to feel more comfortable with the dehumanization and the dehumanizing acts in violation of their rights,” she added.
In direct response to Cheney’s tweet, Ocasio-Cortez said, “The ironic part was she used an extremely offensive term, she used the term extermination, which was co-opting the language of that, you know, that term implies that the people who died in the Holocaust, it doubles down on the rhetoric that justified it. I mean, I think she’s the one who has to do her homework.”
Follow Nicholas Ballasy on Twitter @NicholasBallasy