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U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) speaks during the town hall meeting in the Queens borough of New York City on April 27, 2019. Photo by Jeenah Moon/Reuters

The Ocasio-Cortez and Cheney dispute over ‘concentration camps,’ explained

A member of the House Republican leadership team is calling on Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., to apologize for saying the U.S. is running “concentration camps” at the southern border.

“Allegations that somehow the United States is operating in a way that is in any way a parallel to the Holocaust is just completely ludicrous,” Wisconsin Rep. Liz Cheney, the No. 3 House Republican, told reporters Tuesday.

In an Instagram Live video last week, Ocasio-Cortez said the migrant detention facilities on the U.S.-Mexico border were “concentration camps.”

“‘Never again’ means something,” Ocasio-Cortez said in the video, invoking a phrase used by Holocaust survivors to raise awareness about genocide.

Cheney quickly criticized Ocasio-Cortez on Twitter, saying the New York lawmaker was demeaning the memory of the millions of Jews who were killed during the Holocaust.

Ocasio-Cortez stood by her comments.

“Concentration camps are considered by experts as ‘the mass detention of civilians without trial.’ And that’s exactly what this administration is doing,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Twitter.

Ocasio-Cortez also traded barbs with Rep. Steve King, who said she should accept an offer from a Holocaust remembrance group to visit the Nazi concentration camps. Ocasio-Cortez responded by accusing King of using the moment for political gain. King has been criticized in the past for defending the terms “white supremacist” and “white nationalist.”

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum said in a statement Monday that it “unequivocally rejects efforts to create analogies between the Holocaust and other events, whether historical or contemporary.”

Some historians disagree, saying the use of concentration camps was not limited to the Holocaust.

Others have argued the semantics are not as important as the debate about the actual conditions migrants are facing at the border.

On Tuesday, the acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, John Sanders, announced he was stepping down amid a firestorm over the treatment of children at a facility near El Paso, Texas. The Associated Press reported last week that hundreds of children were facing “inhumane” conditions. Attorneys who interviewed children at the center said they were taking care of other children and reported inadequate food, water and sanitation.

“It’s the worst conditions I have ever witnessed in several years of doing these inspections,” said Warren Binford, a lawyer from Willamette University who visited the facility, in an interview with the PBS NewsHour.

U.S. officials have since removed most of the children from the facility.

The U.S. House of Representatives was scheduled to vote on a bill Tuesday that would provide $4.5 billion in funding to address border security and provide humanitarian aid to migrants who have been detained. The White House has threatened to veto the bill because it says the legislation limits the enforcement measures it can take at the border.

READ MORE: Hundreds of migrant children transferred from Texas facility with ‘inhumane’ conditions

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