• Reading Level 5
History | Geography | Citizenship | RE | PSHE

USA accused of running concentration camps

Are the detention centres along the southern US border “concentration camps”? Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has sparked a row over language and history by saying that they are. Here are the facts: every day, a record 52,000 adults are being held by the USA's Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE), in around 200 detention centres. They are there because they tried to cross illegally into the US. There are also around 13,700 children, who attempted the same crossing, being looked after by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). For many of those children, the conditions are dire. When a team of lawyers interviewed 60 children at a Border Patrol station in El Paso, Texas, they found obvious signs of neglect. "Kids are taking care of kids, and there's inadequate food, water and sanitation for the 250 infants, children and teens," reported The Associated Press. Other reports have described a lack of beds or blankets; lights left on at all hours; no soap or toothbrushes to keep children clean. At least seven children have died in the last year. Last week, New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez aired her disgust on social media. "The United States is running concentration camps on our southern border," she said. "That is exactly what they are: they are concentration camps." Can that be true? The next day, she cited Andrea Pitzer, author of a history of concentration camp systems. Pitzer defines them as "mass detention of civilians without trial". By that measure, Ocasio-Cortez is right. However, the term is extremely loaded. It is most often used to describe camps in NaziA German political party of the twentieth century, led by Adolf Hitler. The Nazis controlled Germany from the early 1930s until the end of World War II. GermanyOne of Europe's largest countries, with a popultion of nearly 86 million. , which were used to kill six million Jews during the Holocaust. "You demean their memory and disgrace yourself with comments like this," Republican congresswoman Liz Cheney tweeted at Ocasio-Cortez. Some historians are also cautious. "What we're doing is just not the same as what the Nazis or the Soviets did," the historian Lance Janda toldn PolitiFact. "It's a disservice to people suffering under dictatorships around the world to act like it is." Language matters So, is the US running concentration camps or not? Of course, it is partly a matter of how you define them. If a concentration camp means holding people in poor conditions - without trial because they are seen as undesirable - then, yes. If it means repeating one of the most extreme crimes in history - the deliberate murder of millions of people - then, no. But does arguing over terminology miss the point? Perhaps the real question is: can this situation ever be acceptable? For many, the answer is no. Charles M Blow writes in The New York Times: "We can use any form of fuzzy language we want, but the United States under Donald Trump is currently engaged in an unconscionable act [...]. Immigrants seeking asylum have surged. And he is meeting the surge with indescribable cruelty." KeywordsNazi - A German political party of the twentieth century, led by Adolf Hitler. The Nazis controlled Germany from the early 1930s until the end of World War II.

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