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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) listens during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on February 27, 2019. (Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

Ocasio-Cortez Hits Back at Liz Cheney: 'What Do You Call Building Mass Camps of People Being Detained Without Trial?'

"Concentration camps are considered by experts as 'the mass detention of civilians without trial.' And that's exactly what this administration is doing."

Jake Johnson

After Rep. Liz Cheney expressed outrage at her statement that President Donald Trump's administration is "running concentration camps on the southern border," Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Tuesday asked the Wyoming Republican what term she would use to describe "mass camps of people being detained without trial."

"How would you dress up DHS's mass separation of thousands children at the border from their parents?" Ocasio-Cortez tweeted after Cheney suggested it is inappropriate and offensive to call U.S. immigrant detention facilities "concentration camps."

The back and forth between Ocasio-Cortez and Cheney—the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney—came after the New York Democrat said during an Instagram livestream Monday night that "concentration camps are now an institutionalized practice" due to the Trump administration's mass detention of immigrants.

In a tweet Tuesday morning, Cheney urged Ocasio-Cortez to "spend just a few minutes learning some actual history" and claimed that to compare immigrant detention facilities to concentration camps is to "demean" the memory of the millions of Jews killed in the Nazi holocaust.

Cheney's tweet sparked a flurry of reaction, including from Jewish commentators who expressed wholehearted agreement with Ocasio-Cortez's statement, which has been echoed by historians and other commentators.

"The Holocaust did not begin with the murder of six million Jews," writer Bess Kalb tweeted in response to Cheney. "It began with the same dehumanization, deportation, and internment we see today. You, sickeningly, invoke the Holocaust to minimize their suffering. Shame."

Others joined Kalb in denouncing Cheney and backing Ocasio-Cortez:

Gun control advocate and Parkland school shooting survivor David Hogg urged Cheney to "learn about what [her] father did to Iraq before commenting on genocide."

Ocasio-Cortez is hardly the first to describe U.S. immigrant detention facilities and concentration camps, which—as several commentators pointed out in response to Cheney—are not the same as death camps.

"Things can be concentration camps without being Dachau or Auschwitz," Andrea Pitzer, author of One Long Night: A Global History of Concentration Camps, told Esquire in an interview last week. "Concentration camps in general have always been designed—at the most basic level—to separate one group of people from another group. Usually, because the majority group, or the creators of the camp, deem the people they're putting in it to be dangerous or undesirable in some way."

Citing Pitzer's interview on Twitter, Ocasio-Cortez wrote: "Concentration camps are considered by experts as 'the mass detention of civilians without trial.' And that's exactly what this administration is doing."


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