Fact-Check: Former Immigration Judge Debunks AOC’s ‘Concentration Camp’ Claim

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 10: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) listens during a House Financial Services Committee hearing on April 10, 2019 in Washington, DC. Seven CEOs of the country’s largest banks were called to testify a decade after the global financial crisis. (Photo by Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images)
Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images

Art Arthur, a resident fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) and former immigration judge, refuted Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-NY) characterization of U.S. migrant detention facilities as “concentration camps,” calling her comments “offensive” and noting that Democrats had no objection to these same facilities when the Obama administration used them. What is truly “reprehensible,” Arthur said, is the refusal of Congressional Democrats like Ocasio-Cortez to provide the humanitarian funding requested by the Trump administration to alleviate the suffering of migrant children and families.

In an interview Tuesday on SiriusXM’s Breitbart News Tonight, Arthur addressed the controversial “concentration camp” comments Ocasio-Cortez made during a Q&A livestream discussion on Instagram:

The New York Democrat took to Twitter yesterday to respond to the intense criticism she received. She argued that her comparison of U.S. detention facilities to “concentration camps” is “not hyperbole. It is the conclusion of expert analysis.”

Arthur told Breitbart News Tonight host Rebecca Mansour that he had direct expert knowledge to refute Ocasio-Cortez’s claim due to his years of work as an immigration judge.

“I’m actually sort of an expert on this, given the fact that I was a judge at a detained court for eight years, and I had jurisdiction over a couple of other detained courts, as well,” he explained. “I would walk down the hall. I would have lunch in the dining hall with the correctional officers. I would work out in the weight room. It didn’t look like any sort of concentration camp.”

Arthur continued, “It’s simply a place for individuals to be detained pending their removal proceedings and then only if they can’t show they’re not a flight risk or a danger to the community. These are really the furthest thing that I can think of [from] anything that would be called a concentration camp. Quite frankly, it’s an offensive statement.”


“The purpose of immigration detention is not punitive, and that’s been established in case law for over a hundred years,” explained Arthur. “The purpose of immigration detention is to ensure that individuals actually appear for their removal proceedings. They also have a dissuasive effect, because if individuals are coming to the United States in order to live and work and make money in this country, and they’re detained until the time that their claims can be heard, people with bad claims aren’t going to come.”

Arthur went on, “People who have bad asylum claims, weak asylum claims, or no asylum claims at all — and especially those with fraudulent claims — aren’t going to come, at all, and what that’s going to do is give the good claims the opportunity to be heard more quickly.”

Arthur stated, “People can be processed through the system very quickly when there is sufficient time and sufficient space to hear their cases, and that’s good for two reasons. One, they can begin their lives in the United States. Two, if they have loved ones abroad who are also in danger or who are in danger because of their relationship to that individual, they can come to the United States quickly, too. It’s only when the system is overwhelmed by the bad cases that we have a problem.”

“Detention helps make that process move a lot more quickly, and ensures that individuals actually show up for court, and if they’re ordered removed, that they are removed,” said Arthur.

Detention facilities for migrants are indispensable, noted Arthur.

“If we did not have immigration detention, there would be nothing that would stop individuals from coming to the United States and simply being released in this country, and if that happened — we had 143,000 people enter illegally last month — we’d have a million people enter illegally a month,” Arthur stated.

Arthur added, “This wasn’t even a controversial issue under the Obama administration. For some reason, if Donald Trump does it, it’s bad, it’s evil, and it has fascist overtones. That really is what this comes down to.”

Recent derision of migrant detention facilities reflect political and partisan biases against President Donald Trump, assessed Arthur.

“I often say that what many people think about immigration really is what they think about Donald Trump, and I think that Representative Ocasio-Cortez’s statements reflect this,” Arthur said. “She just doesn’t like Donald Trump. She doesn’t like anything that he does, and so she’s opposed to this.”

Arthur continued, “But it’s worse than that, because the fact is, the president sent a supplemental request to Congress — I think six weeks ago — asking for money so that we could more humanely process individuals along the border, and Congress has been sitting on that request because they don’t want to give any more money — the Democrats in the House — don’t want to give any more money, at all, for immigration enforcement at the border.”

“The people who are suffering are the families and the children, and that’s what’s so reprehensible about all of this,” he said. “This isn’t even a discussion that we should have. If this were a tsunami in Sri Lanka, we would be sending money. This is a tsunami on the border, and yet people sit around and they don’t even talk about it. They don’t do anything about it. This is the time for action. People have put themselves and put their children in the hands of criminals. Those people have suffered on the way to the United States.”

Arthur added, “You can read the bipartisan report issued by the Homeland Security Advisory Council to hear about the horrible traumas that these children have gone through on the way to the United States. The president is asking for money so that we can humanely process these people — and especially the children — and get them sorted out to sponsors or alternatively return them to their families back home. And yet nothing gets done. I can’t understand it.”

Mansour invited Arthur’s comments on House Democrats’ opposition to the sharing of information between the departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Homeland Security (DHS). The Hill reported: “The [House Democrats’] caucus has been wary of supporting anything that could, directly or indirectly, help enforce Trump’s immigration and border policies. Border funding was pulled out of a disaster aid package amid a stalemate over immigration-related provisions, including when HHS could share information with the Department of Homeland Security about potential sponsors for unaccompanied minors.”

“The reason that they don’t want to do it is purportedly because they don’t want DHS to use the information about the sponsors in order to take removal action against those individuals,” Arthur explained. “But it’s important to note the sponsors with which these children are being placed, I think 78 percent of the time, have no status.”

Arthur continued, “Many — if not most — of those sponsors are the parents who paid the smugglers, the horrible criminals, to bring their children to the United States. So in essence, you have individuals in the United States Congress who are saying that we don’t want to discourage people in the United States from paying criminals to smuggle children over a harrowing 1,000-mile journey through Mexico [in which] two-thirds of all individuals are assaulted, one-third of all women are raped [or] sexually assaulted, and they don’t want to take any action against the parents that are encouraging this kind of behavior.”

Arthur concluded, “The United States government is completing the task of the smugglers. … If you are in the United States, and you have your child brought to this country, you should be known to DHS. DHS should place you into removal proceedings. If you’re eligible for benefits, you should get those benefits, but if you’re not, you should be returned to your country. We don’t want to encourage this behavior, but regrettably, that’s exactly what the position of the Democrats in the House of Representatives is doing, right now, is encouraging people to trust their children to smugglers.”

“The idea that one agency [or] department of the United States government would have information that it just can’t give to another one, that’s when bad things happen,” warned Arthur. “That’s when kids get abused. That’s when kids get trafficked, and that should really make people angry.” 

Breitbart News Tonight broadcasts live on SiriusXM Patriot channel 125 weeknights from 9:00 p.m. to midnight Eastern or 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Pacific.

Follow Robert Kraychik on Twitter @rkraychik.


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