Jewish Group Chides Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for Calling Migrant Centers Concentration Camps: 'We Are Deeply Disturbed'

The Jewish Community Relations Council has urged New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to "refrain" from comparing migrant detention in the United States to the Holocaust after the politician branded U.S. detention centers "concentration camps" in an Instagram live stream.

Despite being concerned "about the conditions experienced by migrants seeking asylum in the United States," the JCRC, which is based in New York, said it was "deeply disturbed" by the language Ocasio-Cortez used in her social media post, in a letter addressed to the 29-year-old representative.

"We are deeply disturbed by the language used in your recent Instagram live video which seeks to equate the detention centers on America's southern border with Nazi-era Concentration Camps," the JCRC said.

"The terms 'Concentration Camp' and 'Never Again' are synonymous with and evocative of the atrocities committed by Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany in which 6 million European Jews were systematically denied civil and human rights due to their race and ultimately murdered in a state-sponsored genocide," the JCRC said.

"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," the organization said.

The stern rebuke came after Ocasio-Cortez accused the Trump administration of "running concentration camps on our southern border" in her Instagram live stream on Monday.

Likely expecting backlash to the comment, the 29-year-old representative emphasized that "that is exactly what they are. They are concentration camps."

During her live stream, Ocasio-Cortez also invoked the phrase "Never Again," saying it should mean something to Americans.

"I want to talk to the people that are concerned enough with humanity to say that we should not... that 'Never Again' means something," she said.

The New York Congresswoman also said that the situation at the southern border is not just a crisis "for the immigrant communities being held in concentration camps... This is a crisis for ourselves. This is a crisis on if America will remain America."

It is also a question, the New York representative said, of whether America's "principles or values" will remain intact, or "if we are losing to an authoritarian and fascist presidency."

I don't use those words lightly," Ocasio-Cortez said of labeling the Trump administration "authoritarian" and "fascist."

"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," she said. "A presidency that creates concentration camps is fascist."

In its letter to Ocasio-Cortez, the JCRC said that as New York City "is home to the largest Holocaust survivor community in the United States," the organization would be interested in organizing a visit to a concentration camp for the New York representative, as well as a trip to a local Holocaust museum to "hear the stories of local survivors, or participate in other educational opportunities in the hopes of better understanding the horrors of the Holocaust."

"Until that time, we urge you to refrain from using terminology evocative of the Holocaust to voice concerns about our contemporary political issues," the group said.

The Jewish Community Relations Council was far from the only voice to condemn Ocasio-Cortez's comments, with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) acting Director Mark Morgan also blasting the New York representative over her comments, calling the comparison "completely inappropriate."

"It's reckless, it's irresponsible, it's misinformed and it's flat-out wrong," Morgan said.

"Ah yes," Ocasio-Cortez responded in a tweet. "Because history knows that people who run concentration camp systems almost always acknowledge to the public what they're doing."

While the 29-year-old representative does not appear to have responded directly to the JCRC's letter, she has shared a number of tweets from others defending her comparison of migrant detention centers to concentration camps.

In one such tweet, Federico Finchelstein, a professor at New York City's The New School, writes that "as a historian of fascism and Holocaust, I would also call these centers concentration camps."

"As a Jewish person who lost family in [the] Holocaust, I regret that some Republicans use memory of the Holocaust to defend racist policies of Trumpism," he said. Ocasio-Cortez, he said, "is right."

In another tweet, immigration writer Annalisa Merelli said that Ocasio-Cortez "isn't expressing an opinion, she is stating a fact: Border detention centers *are* concentration camps. Trying to reject the label is not going to make the atrocity go away."

AOC
U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) speaks during a rally at Howard University May 13, 2019 in Washington, D.C. Ocasio-Cortez has received backlas⁠h—and support⁠⁠—over her recent comments comparing migrant detention centers to concentration camps. Alex Wong/Getty
Jewish Group Chides Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for Calling Migrant Centers Concentration Camps: 'We Are Deeply Disturbed' | U.S.