June 19, 2019 8:55 pm
Updated: June 22, 2019 7:11 am

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez facing backlash for migrant detention centre comments

WATCH ABOVE: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez calls migrant detention centres 'concentration camps'

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New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, is facing backlash after making comments comparing migrant detention centres along the U.S.-Mexico border to concentration camps.

“The U.S. is running concentration camps on our southern border, and that is exactly what they are,” Ocasio-Cortez said during an Instagram Live video Monday evening.

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“If that doesn’t bother you… I want to talk to the people that are concerned enough with humanity to say that ‘Never Again’ means something,” she continued.  “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’s comments were met with harsh criticism, with many saying her remarks were demeaning to victims of the Holocaust.

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

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Florida Senator, Rick Scott tweeted, calling Ocasio-Cortez’s comments”dangerous” and “disgusting.”

“This is wrong @AOC. These are incredibly dangerous and disgusting words that demean the millions murdered during the Holocaust,” he wrote.  “If House Dems are so concerned, then they should take the crisis at the border seriously and help fund border security.”

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The Jewish Community Relations Council of New York posted an open letter to Twitter on Tuesday, saying it was “deeply concerned” by Ocasio-Cortez’s use of language. The council urged Ocasio-Cortez to refrain from using terminology evocative of the Holocaust.

“The terms ‘Concentration Camp’ and ‘Never Again’ are synonymous with and evocative of the atrocities committed by Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany, in which six million European Jews were systematically denied civil and human rights due to their race and ultimately murdered in state-sponsored genocide,” the letter reads.

“As concerned as we are about the conditions experienced by migrants seeking asylum in the United States, including family separation, unusable facilities, and lack of food, water, and medical resources, the regrettable use of Holocaust terminology to describe these contemporary concerns diminishes the evil intent of the Nazis to eradicate the Jewish people.”

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At a press conference on Wednesday, House Minority Leader, Kevin McCarthy blasted Ocasio-Cortez for her remarks and called for an apology.

“I think Congresswoman AOC needs to apologize,” he said. “Not only to the nation but to the world. She does not understand history.”

WATCH: Republican House leader says Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez ‘doesn’t know history’ after ‘concentration camp’ remarks

“She does not understand what is going on at the border at the same time,” he continued, saying there is no comparison and calling Ocasio-Cortez’s remarks “embarrassing.”

“To take something that happened in history where millions of Jews died… and equate that to somewhere that’s happening on the border… she owes this nation an apology.”

Despite the criticism, New York Rep. and Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Jerrold Nadler, defended Ocasio-Cortez in a tweet onTuesday.

READ MORE: 16-year-old Guatemalan boy dies in U.S. custody — 5th migrant child death since December

“One of the lessons from the Holocaust is ‘Never Again’ — not only to mass murder, but also to the dehumanization of people, violations of basic rights, and assaults on our common morality,” Nadler wrote. “We fail to learn that lesson when we don’t callout (sic.) such inhumanity right in front of us.”

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Despite the criticism, Ocasio-Cortez doubled down on the comments in a series of tweets Wednesday.

“DHS ripped 1000s of children from their parents & put them in cages w inhumane conditions,” she wrote. “They call their cells ‘dog pounds’ & ‘freezers.'”

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“I will never apologize for calling these camps what they are. If that makes you uncomfortable, fight the camps – not the nomenclature.”

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Ocasio-Cortez’s comments came the same day U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted, saying Immigration and Customs Enforcement would begin deporting “millions” of immigrants who are living in the U.S.

“They will be removed as fast as they come in,” Trump wrote.

According to numbers released earlier this month, the U.S. Border Patrol’s apprehension of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border hit the highest level in more than a decade.

Agents made 132,887 apprehensions in May, the first time that apprehensions have topped 100,000 since April 2007.

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It set a record with 84,542 adults and children apprehended. Another 11,507 were children travelling alone, and 36,838 were single adults.

Officials warned they do not have the money and resources to care for the surge of parents and children entering the country.

READ MORE: Migrant detentions at U.S.-Mexico border in May highest since 2007

Also released earlier this month was a report from the Border Network for Human Rights based on dozens of testimonials of immigrants over the past month and a half.

The report provided a snapshot of cramped conditions and prolonged stays in detention amid a record surge of migrant families coming into the U.S. from Central America.

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Five immigrant children have died since late last year after being detained by the Border Patrol, including a flu-stricken teenager who was found dead in a facility migrants refer to as the “icebox” because of the temperatures inside.

“The state of human rights in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands is grave and is only getting worse,” the immigrant rights group said in its report. “People are dying because of what is happening.”

Customs and Border Protection responded to the complaints, saying “allegations are not facts. If there is an issue it is best to contact CBP directly. In many cases the matter can be resolved immediately.”

— With files from the Associated Press.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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