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'I Know What Concentration Camps Are,' Actor George Takei Says

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez drew ire from Trump supporters after she tweeted that the U.S. has established "concentration camps" along the southern border.
Actor George Takei speaks May 8, 2018, about his experiences in U.S. internment camps during World War II at an appearance at
Actor George Takei speaks May 8, 2018, about his experiences in U.S. internment camps during World War II at an appearance at Boston Public Library.

It appears that George Takei and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) are on the same page. 

The freshman representative said in a tweet earlier this week that the Trump administration had “established concentration camps along the southern border of the United States for immigrants, where they are being brutalized with dehumanizing conditions and dying.”

Ocasio-Cortez’s comments immediately drew criticism from conservatives as well as Fox News anchor Bill Hemmer, who claimed during his Tuesday broadcast that she owes “every Jew on the planet an apology.”

In response, the “Star Trek” actor tweeted about his own experience with such conditions. Takei, who was incarcerated as a child at Rohwer War Relocation Center and Tule Lake War Relocation Center for being Japanese American during World War II, wrote that he knows “what concentration camps are.” 

“I was inside two of them, in America,” he tweeted. “And yes, we are operating such camps again.” 

Nina Wallace, a communications coordinator for Densho, an organization that works to preserve Japanese American history, supported Takei’s comments. She told HuffPost that, although many continue to refer to the facilities where Japanese Americans were incarcerated as “internment camps” or “relocation centers,” these terms are euphemisms. The Trump administration has used terms such as “federal migrant shelters” and “temporary shelters for unaccompanied minors.” 

“A concentration camp is a place where civilians are confined for military or political purposes based on their identity. As prison camps outside the criminal justice system, designed to detain Japanese Americans based solely on their racial and ethnic identity, sites like Manzanar and Tule Lake were absolutely U.S. concentration camps,” she said. “These were compounds of barracks surrounded by barbed wire fences and patrolled by armed guards, which Japanese Americans could not leave without permission.”

By failing to describe the facilities that Ocasio-Cortez had referenced as concentration camps, Wallace said, the administration is using euphemisms as a “deliberate tool to obscure harsh realities and prevent us from recognizing historical patterns.”

“To avoid repeating the mistakes of our past, we must be able to see them clearly ― and that means calling Trump’s concentration camps for migrant children and families exactly what they are.”

Concentration camp expert Andrea Pitzer, whom Ocasio-Cortez referenced in her tweet as confirmation for her honest language in labeling the detention centers along the U.S.-Mexico border,  doubled down on her use of the term Tuesday. 

“If we want to call it ‘irregular detention,’ if we want to call it ‘extrajudicial detention,’ I don’t think we have to get stuck on that term,” Pitzer said. “I wrote a history of the term ... and what I would really like people to know is that the same thing is happening here now.”

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