Americans tend to conflate the idea of “concentration camps” with “death camps” because that’s how the simplified version of the war’s history presents them. Most of the concentration facilities run by the Nazi regime eventually became “death camps,” especially once it was clear that the Reich was on the back foot—but on the most literal level, the purpose of a concentration camp is right there in the name: to concentrate a group of people (often considered “undesirable”) in a limited space for ease of both containment and control.
In that sense, Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez is absolutely correct about what we are doing to undocumented immigrants in this country: we are placing them in concentration camps. We needn’t be yanking their gold teeth, performing medical experiments on them, or shoving them all into a concrete room for a “shower” (please understand that I’m not making light of any of those things) in order for the fact that they’re in concentration camps to be true.
We did the same thing to Japanese-Americans during WW II—we just like to tell ourselves it was different from what the Reich was doing because we weren’t actively feeding anyone to furnaces.
Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez is absolutely correct to call the camps we’re detaining other human beings in “concentration camps.” She’s being called out because of the emotional resonance that term has in our history that exists entirely separately from its clinical meaning, but she is not wrong.
It’s just kinda galling to watch the people who’re freaking out over her (admittedly pathos-based-and-triggering) phrasing also praise Trump’s categorization of our undocumented immigration situation as “an invasion” (which is another pathos-steeped loaded label specifically designed to elicit an emotional response).