Freshman Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) has become famous (and often infamous) for her frequent gaffes and displays of ignorance. Earlier this week, the New York Democrat stuck her foot in her mouth once again, this time comparing migrant detention centers on the southern border to “concentration camps” run by “an authoritarian and fascist presidency.” And many on the left – including politicians and journalists – agreed with the “sentiment.” Yet both the comments and the “sentiment” are sheer and utter nonsense.
Migrant detention centers near the U.S.-Mexico border may not be five-star resorts. That is not their purpose. Instead, their objective is to detain foreign nationals attempting to enter the United States unlawfully. Comparing them to concentration camps run by the twentieth century’s most brutal and murderous totalitarian regimes, the German National Socialists (Nazis) and Soviet communists, betrays a woeful ignorance of both history and current political reality. This prompted one Polish parliamentarian to actually invite AOC to Poland to learn about real concentration camps, an invitation she should definitely take up.
The Bolsheviks began establishing concentration camps for their political enemies soon after seizing power in Russia. The Soviet concentration camp system – known as the Gulag – reached its bloody apogee under Stalin during the 1930s and 40s when it enslaved millions, killing many in the process. The German Nazis also established their own camps once Hitler gained power in Germany in 1933 and expanded them as they conquered most of Europe. At its pinnacle, the Third Reich’s concentration camp empire – death camps in particular – worked overtime to exterminate the continent’s Jews and other groups the Nazis deemed “subhuman,” such as Gypsies or Slavs. The German and communist concentration camps had many common features, including forced labor in horrific conditions – causing many inmates to simply be worked to death – starvation rations, brutal beatings, arbitrary punishments, and cruel torture. Plenty of books have been written and documentary films made on the Nazi and Soviet concentration camps, so there is no excuse for public officials to be this ignorant.
My own uncle, a Polish Catholic, was captured by the German occupation forces in a dragnet to feed the Third Reich’s insatiable demand for slave labor. He recalled the exhaustion, hunger, and diseases that accompanied the life of an Auschwitz inmate on a daily basis as well as the frequent beatings and deaths of fellow inmates. Once, he was brutally beaten for stealing a rotten onion from a dumpster near the German officers’ barracks. Given such treatment, it was a miracle that he (barely) survived the German camps.
Unlike the totalitarian camps – which were filled with innocent people that the Nazi or Soviet regimes arbitrarily considered enemies – there is a very simple and easy way to avoid being held in a migrant detention center: don’t try to sneak into the U.S. illegally. We are not invading Central America and rounding up its inhabitants. Rather, the U.S. is simply attempting to protect its borders like any other sovereign nation.
Moreover, the men and women of the DHS at the southern border are doing their best while caring for the detained migrants as humanely as possible given the critical situation. As Border Patrol chief Carla Provost stated during the House Homeland Security subcommittee hearing on Thursday, she was “extremely offended” by AOC’s remarks. She added: “I’m calling agents who are bringing toys in for children and buying them with their personal money; agents are bringing in clothes; they’re feeding babies; they’re going above and beyond day in and day out to try to care for these individuals to best of their ability.”
Our elected representatives should know better. The reason for the humanitarian crisis at the southern border is that a growing wave of illegal migration from Central America – consisting of many unaccompanied children and real or alleged family units – is overwhelming our resources. We are at breaking point, and the situation in our overcrowded detention centers is merely the predictable outcome of the obstructionist policies of AOC and other ideologically kindred politicians who are sabotaging attempts to properly fund border security and discourage mass illegal migration.