Jason Hopkins on August 13, 2019
“I don’t,” Ocasio-Cortez said to ABC7 during an interview that aired Friday. “I don’t regret it at all… we in the United States have a history of concentration camps with Japanese internment, in South Africa. They were part of a larger process in the Holocaust, but they were not unique nor were they the actual death camps in the Holocaust either.”
The comments were the latest response from Ocasio-Cortez since she attracted widespread controversy over the comparisons. During an Instagram livestream in June, the New York Democrat accused the U.S. government of running concentration camps along its southern border.
“That is exactly what they are. They are concentration camps,” she said during the livestream. “I want to talk to the people that are concerned enough with humanity to say that we should not – that ‘never again’ means something. The fact that concentrations camps are now an institutionalized practice in the Home of the Free is extraordinarily disturbing and we need to do something about it.”
The comparison drew condemnation from numerous people across the country, including a Holocaust survivor. Yad Vashem, a leading Holocaust museum, publicly invited Ocasio-Cortez to tour its facility, and a prominent Jewish organization asked her to “refrain from using terminology evocative of the Holocaust to voice concerns about contemporary political issues.”
Ocasio-Cortez responded to the criticism by claiming she was not specifically referring to the Holocaust, or the six million Jews killed by Nazism, but about other “concentration camps” implemented throughout history.
“While concentration camps were employed during [World War II], concentration camps were also utilized all over the world — including in the United States with Japanese internment,” she said to CNN in June.
While Ocasio-Cortez maintains that her initial comments were mischaracterized — arguing that she was speaking about concentration camps in a general sense, she used the phrase “never again” during her June livestream. Those words have long been used by the Jewish community to refer to the Holocaust, and a phrase meant to heed the warnings signs of genocide.
A left-wing terrorist in July attempted to attack an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility in Washington state. The 69-year-old man tried to light the buildings on fire, but was unable to cause significant damage before getting killed in a shootout with police. A manifesto belonging to the man referred to immigration detention centers as “concentration camps.”
When approached by the Daily Caller in July, Ocaso-Cortez condemned the attack. “[A]ny act of violence is of course terrible,” she said at the time. It’s remains unclear how the terrorist became radicalized, or why he came to believe the ICE detention center was a concentration camp.