- Freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez sparked a fierce debate when she compared detention centers for migrant children to concentration camps.
- A new INSIDER poll found that just 25% of Americans — but almost half of likely Democratic primary voters — agree with her comparison.
- 25.6% of Americans and 44% of Democratic primary voters agreed with the statement: “I think given the very definition of the term and the awful conditions at the sites, it’s entirely appropriate to describe the facilities as concentration camps.”
- Recent reports from The New York Times and the Associated Press documented what many perceived to be unsanitary and inhumane conditions for children housed at the Clint Border Patrol Station in Texas.
Despite the criticism of her remarks, some Holocaust historians told Esquire Magazine that her comparison is apt, even though children aren’t being forced to work or put in gas chambers in America’s migrant detention facilities.
- “We have what I would call a concentration camp system,” author and historian Andrea Pitzer told Esquire. “And the definition of that in my book is, mass detention of civilians without trial.”
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Freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez sparked a fierce debate when she compared detention centers for migrant children to concentration camps, and a new INSIDER poll found that just 25% of Americans agree with her comparison. Her statement was more popular among likely Democratic voters.
Ocasio-Cortez made the comments after five minors died in Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody in the last seven months months, and recent reports from The New York Times and the Associated Press documented unsanitary and inhumane conditions for children housed at the Clint Border Patrol Station in Texas.
Read more: Teens taking care of toddlers, children eating uncooked food, and an outbreak of the flu: Lawyers report dire conditions at a Texas Border Patrol station where migrant children are being held
INSIDER asked 1,091 Americans: “Given what you know about the conditions at the detention facilities housing minors who were captured crossing the US border, what best describes your view?” Just over 450 of these respondents said they would likely participate in their state’s Democratic primary or caucuses, a group more likely to agree with Ocasio-Cortez, so we’ve broken them out as well.
- 26% of respondents and 44% of likely Democratic primary voters agreed with the statement: “I think given the very definition of the term and the awful conditions at the sites, it’s entirely appropriate to describe the facilities as concentration camps.”
- 27% of respondents and 30% of likely Democratic primary voters choose the statement: “I believe the conditions at the sites are inadequate and unsanitary, but I would not go as far as to compare the sites to a concentration camp.”
- 14% of respondents and 6% of likely Democratic primary voters agreed with the statement: “I think it’s inappropriate to compare the DHS facilities to a concentration camp.”
- 16% of respondents and 8% of likely Democratic primary voters agreed wi tht the statement: “I would never, under any circumstances, compare any facility to a concentration camp.”
- 17% of respondents and 10% of likely Democratic primary voters answered that they didn’t know or would rather not say.
Initially, reports documented troubling conditions at the crowded Clint Border Patrol Station in Texas, where children said in interviews with immigration lawyers that older children were made to take care of babies and toddlers, and children detainees had to wear the same clothes stained with bodily fluids for weeks, were made to sleep on concrete floors with the lights on 24/7, and did not have access to soap, toothpaste, or regular showers.
A lawyer for the Justice Department argued in federal court that denying children toothpaste and soap was not fostering unsafe and unsanitary conditions.
On Sunday, a federal judge ordered CBP to allow medical professionals into facilities in the El Paso and Rio Grave Valley areas to ensure the conditions are “safe and sanitary” as part of pending litigation against the government, in which immigration lawyers are arguing the current conditions violate a 1997 settlement which establishes guidelines for how minors in detention should be treated.
“Never again means something … the fact that concentration camps are now an institutionalized practice in the home of the free is extraordinarily disturbing,” Ocasio-Cortez said in a June 17 Instagram livestream.
Ocasio-Cortez has doubled down on the comparison in recent weeks, despite pushback from Republican lawmakers and others who said that drawing a parallel between the Holocaust and the current situation at the border was disrespectful and offensive to Holocaust survivors.
“DHS ripped 1000s of children from their parents & put them in cages [with] inhumane conditions. They call their cells ‘dog pounds’ & ‘freezers.'” I will never apologize for calling these camps what they are. If that makes you uncomfortable, fight the camps — not the nomenclature,” she said in a subsequent tweet.
Despite the criticism of her remarks, some Holocaust historians told Esquire Magazine that her comparison is apt, even though children in America’s migrant detentions aren’t being forced to work or put in gas chambers in like those in Nazi Germany.
“We have what I would call a concentration camp system,” Andrea Pitzer, the author of “One Long Night: A Global History of Concentration Camps” told Esquire. “And the definition of that in my book is, mass detention of civilians without trial.”
Historian Waitman Wade Boern also told the magazine: “Things can be concentration camps without being Dachau or Auschwitz. Concentration camps in general have always been designed — at the most basic level — to separate one group of people from another group.”
The US Holocaust Museum initially denounced “analogies between the Holocaust and other events, whether historical or contemporary,” during the controversy over Ocasio-Cortez’s comments, but 150 historians and scholars called on the museum to retract the statement in an open letter published Tuesday.
“”The very core of Holocaust education is to alert the public to dangerous developments that facilitate human rights violations,” the letter said, according to CNN, further saying that the “decision to completely reject drawing any possible analogies to the Holocaust, or to the events leading up to it, is fundamentally ahistorical,”
SurveyMonkey Audience polls from a national sample balanced by census data of age and gender. Respondents are incentivized to complete surveys through charitable contributions. Generally speaking, digital polling tends to skew toward people with access to the internet. SurveyMonkey Audience doesn’t try to weight its sample based on race or income. The poll was collected June 28-29, had a total of 1,172 respondents, 448 of whom were registered Democrats, and a margin of error of plus or minus 3.02 percentage points with a 95% confidence level.