Faced with an unprecedented surge in illegal immigration at the southern border — more than 350,000 people were apprehended between March and May entering the country illegally or seeking asylum, more than double the normal rate, according to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol — there has been a rash of reckless and unfortunate comparisons made to Nazi Germany, concentration camps and the mass murder of six million Jews in the Holocaust and another 13 million Poles, Russians, Ukrainians and others.
Taking to Twitter, U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) on June 18 declared, “This administration has established concentration camps on the southern border of the United States for immigrants, where they are being brutalized with dehumanizing conditions and dying. This is not hyperbole. It is the conclusion of expert analysis…”
Ocasio-Cortez linked to a report from Esquire by Jack Holmes, “An Expert on Concentration Camps Says That’s Exactly What the U.S. Is Running at the Border” that quoted author Andrea Pitzer stating, “We have what I would call a concentration camp system, and the definition of that in my book is, mass detention of civilians without trial.”
The systematic killing of the Holocaust was no singular event. It included the detention of civilians and prisoners of war in a network of more than 42,000 camps where death and murder were commonplace. Millions died. Any comparison is bound to draw harsh criticism.
In the Jerusalem Post, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach writes, “AOC’s trivialization of Hitler’s camps, where 1.5 million Jewish children were gassed to death, should sicken the heart of every person of conscience. If we don’t confront and defeat growing Holocaust denial, we may soon confront a reality where young Americans more quickly associate the term ‘concentration camp’ with Texas and Arizona than the killing fields of Europe — and come to see Auschwitz as just another place where some bad things happened.”
Other irresponsible headlines include Jacobin’s “The Border Patrol Is the American SS,” foolishly comparing the U.S. Border Patrol to Nazi Germany’s notorious Einsatzgruppen. The SS included paramilitary death squads that were responsible for the mass murder of millions of Jews, Slavs and others often by mass shootings in addition to the millions more that were murdered in the death camps.
The ridiculous Nazi comparisons don’t end there. Screenwriter and director Joss Whedon on July 4 tweeted in response to the reports, “We have a racist, fascist president who’s using armed thugs in law enforcement & illegal militias to keep us cowed & hopeless & he’ll take the 2020 election by armed force & blatant, treasonous criminality & that’s us now, we’re the country with concentration camps so happy 4th.”
There are others, but these serve as prime examples of the mass hysteria we are seeing unfold in our mainstream political parlance. To summarize, per the radical left’s fantastic ravings: 1) detaining illegal immigrants at the border is the same as concentration camps that isolated political prisoners in Word War II and sent them to death camps in the Holocaust; 2) the Border Patrol apprehending illegal immigrants, heroin smugglers and human traffickers on the southern border is the same thing as paramilitary death squads roaming the countryside and murdering millions; and 3) the duly elected President Donald Trump is the same as Adolf Hitler who ordered the mass murder of millions.
So, let’s examine the facts.
The Esquire piece in turn noted that 24 people had died in custody since the beginning of 2017, citing an NBC report from June 9. 22 of those were in 2017 and 2018. But neither of those years were the worst on record, per NBC: “The number of in-custody deaths remains below the peak of 32 deaths in 2004, the first full calendar year records were kept.” So far, in 2019, two people have died in custody, despite a record year of apprehensions. None were murdered by Border Patrol agents.
The case most cited was the death of Roxana Hernandez, a Honduran. According to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) statement on May 25, 2018, Hernandez “entered ICE custody on May 13 at the San Luis Regional Detention Center (SLRDC) in San Luis, Ariz. Two days later, Hernandez was transferred to the El Paso Processing Center in El Paso, Texas, and on May 16 Hernandez arrived at the Cibola County Correctional Center in Milan, New Mexico. On May 17, Hernandez was admitted to Cibola General Hospital with symptoms of pneumonia, dehydration and complications associated with HIV. Later in the day she was transferred via air ambulance to LMC, where she remained in the intensive care unit until her passing. LMC medical staff pronounced her deceased May 25 at 3:32 a.m. (MDT), and identified the preliminary cause of death as cardiac arrest.”
A three-time illegal immigrant, Hernandez had been convicted of theft, lewd, immoral and indecent conduct, prostitution and illegal entry into the U.S. Her death, while tragic, is not akin to the Holocaust. She was not murdered, she passed away owing to her illnesses, despite receiving intensive care for a week prior to her passing.
All told, from the beginning of 2017 through May 2019, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol have apprehended 1.41 million people entering the country illegally. Of that number, 24 died while in custody, a mortality rate of 0.0017 percent. Far more were ordered deported, about 452,000, having no legal basis for being here.
During the last three years of the Obama administration, 1.56 million were apprehended, about 276,000 were deported. According to the NBC report, “Deaths rose and then fell during the Obama administration, from 10 in 2008 to five in 2012, a period in which ICE implemented policies to improve detention conditions and oversight. But deaths then ticked up to 12 in President Obama’s last full year in office, 2016, as the number of detainees grew.” For 2016, Obama’s last year in office, the mortality rate was 0.002 percent, slightly higher than present, using the same facilities that the Trump administration now depends on to care for those who were apprehended.
The truth is, most are ultimately released simply because there are not enough facilities to house the sheer number of people showing up.
When compared to federal and state prison populations, for example, in 2014 there were 3,927 deaths in federal and state prisons, which had a total population of 1.56 million that year, a rate of 0.25 percent. Nearly all the deaths were illness-related, suicides or drug and/or alcohol intoxication. Just 83 were determined to be homicides, or about 2 percent of the deaths. Those are not concentration camps, either.
In comparison, the Einsatzgruppen murdered more than 2 million people between 1941 and 1945, meaning more than 1,100 people were murdered every single day and more than 400,000 every year. That’s not counting the millions more who were sent to the gas chambers at the death camps.
The Virtual Jewish Library reports that “Only a small fraction of those imprisoned in Nazi camps survived. As many as 15-20 million people may have died in the various camps and ghettoes.”
So, while almost everybody died in German imprisonment in the concentration and death camps during World War II, with murder being the top cause ordered by Hitler and his regime, with starvation and disease being another, in comparison, more than 99 percent do not die in U.S. prisons or whilst in Border Patrol custody, and almost none of them are murdered. None were ordered to be murdered by President Trump or his administration.
Consider the sick and twisted cruelty and barbarity of the Second World War, and then think about those risking their lives on the southern border to stop drug and human trafficking, sex slaves and other forms of barbarity. They’re comparing those tasked with preventing human cruelty with the most evil, despicable acts in human history.
In short, there simply is no comparison. It’s unbelievable and reckless to repeat this nonsense.
Clearly, the journey through Central America and Mexico across the U.S. border is a dangerous trek, but it is not at all comparable to the magnitude, horror and evil of the Holocaust and World War II. The comparison on its face is rooted in ignorance, an idiotic trivialization of the mass murder that took place at the hands of Nazi Germany and other totalitarian regimes in history that have sought to exterminate entire civilian populations.
While the shame of making such comparisons can never stand in contrast to the horrors of the Holocaust, it is nonetheless disgraceful.
But more than that, it is a dangerous comparison, likely to provoke yet more political violence against Trump supporters and Republicans more broadly as we proceed into the 2020 election cycle. Increasingly, the comparisons made are to liken regular Americans to the perpetrators of the Holocaust, to see your neighbors as being Nazi stooges. Antifa, a radical extremist group that claims to be fighting modern-day fascists, organizes around this very basis.
Such an unwarranted demonization of people, civilians, as being akin to mass murderers is pure propaganda and scapegoating. U.S. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez should go to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. and she will very quickly come to realize that the mass murder of the Holocaust was not contained to the death camps in Poland, it was widespread and deliberate killing including in the concentration camps, labor camps, POW camps and ghettoes. Saying that the same thing is occurring here in America is beyond the pale.
Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government.