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WATCH: CNN's Cuomo, Rye Get Put In Their Place While Defending AOC's 'Concentration Camps' Claim

Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File

CNN political commentator Steve Cortes went to bat with host Chris Cuomo and Angela Rye, the former executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus, over Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's (D-NY) claim that America has "concentration camps" at the southern border. 


According to Rye, the Right is afraid of AOC because she "tells the truth."

Here's the transcript, provided by CNN (emphasis mine):

RYE: So, what I think is most important, Chris, is we do so often in these great debates is I think it's critical that we define it. I am a kid who as a - as a point of privilege, I had a set of encyclopedias. They were orange, encyclopedias that I loved to read.

And so, I pulled the encyclopedia definition for Concentration Camps, and I would like to share them with your viewer. "Internment Center for political prisoners and members of national or minority groups who are confined for reasons of state security, exploitation, or punishment, usually by executive decree or military order."

And to that - to that end, they are Concentration Camps at the Border. To that end, whether we call them Concentration Camps or we call them detention, they are problematic.

To that end, when you talk about a frog being put in a boiling pot of hot water, the frog will immediately jump out. But if the frog is put in a - in a - in a pot of cold water, and you slowly turn up the heat, I'm going somewhere, it will - it will die. It will die.

And what I'm saying to you is, today, we sat through this President calling Mexicans drug dealers and rapists, at the beginning of this campaign. Today, we sat through him talking about "Build that wall," and heard all those chants, and we went from rage - outrage to disgust, to dismay, to it's a shame.

And I am telling you that we are irresponsible at this point that whether we call them Concentration Camps or not, her point remains. And the Right is threatened by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez because she tells the truth, whether they can digest it or not.

And our bottom line here is there is an inhumane crisis happening at the Southern Border. And it is because of how these people look. It is because of differences because there is a fear that White people are losing their power in this country. That is the bottom line. It is White fear. That is what is driving this. It is racism at its core.


RYE: It is what this found - the foundation--

CUOMO: All right, let Steve respond.

RYE: --of this country is built upon. Period!

CORTES: That's completely - that's - that - that's completely untrue. First - a couple things. First of all--

RYE: It's not untrue.

CORTES: --even given your definition of a Concentration Camp--

RYE: That might not be your perspective.

CORTES: --even given your definition--

RYE: But do not call what I said untrue.

CORTES: --if we were placing American citizens into these camps--

RYE: It's that Encyclopedia Britannica, Sir.

CORTES: --if - if we were placing American citizens into these camps, as we have shamefully done in the past, with Japanese American - American citizens of Japanese descent, then I would agree with you. These are not American citizens. What the Nazis did is they took German citizens--

RYE: So, you can - you can--

CORTES: --dragged them - dragged them out of their homes, stripped them of citizenship, stripped them of human dignity--

RYE: You're going to justify this by what citizenship these people have?

CORTES: --and sent them to torture and death. What we have now I'm - what we have now are foreign citizens--

RYE: That's sick, Steve. It's sick.

CORTES: --who are trespassing--

RYE: It's a new low.

CORTES: --into the United States, overwhelmingly for economic reasons, and we know that to be true, historically and presently, because the - the Director of ICE just told us, 90 percent are not showing up for their asylum hearings. They are not legitimate refugees. They're economic migrants who have decided on their own how that - when and how they can become American citizens, and that's not the right way.

RYE: Let me - let me--

CORTES: And it is not about race.

RYE: Yes. So - so - so--

CORTES: My father came here the legal way. And when he became an American, he didn't suddenly become White. He was still Hispanic. But he was an American citizen. And it is not racist. It is not xenophobic for this country to determine the processes to become a legal American citizen.

RYE: I'm sorry.

CORTES: It's just sensible.

RYE: Let me tell you - let me tell you something.

Now, I don't know when we decided that a humanitarian crisis could be defined whether or not someone is carrying a Green Card or whether or not someone has their papers, but I'm going to tell you this.

Before we are American, we are human beings. And it is not OK. It is a damn shame what is happening at this Border. And the fact that you're going to justify it - justify it by economics, let me just tell you, there are a whole lot of people making a whole lot of money by having these people in detention centers.

We want to shift the attention, as - as we should, off of mass incarceration of Black and Brown people in this country, but now those monies are being transferred into detaining migrants at the Border.

It is a crisis, Steve. It is not OK just because they don't have their papers. I hope--

CORTES: Listen, I - I - absolutely.

RYE: --that at some point, you wrestle with your conscience, and get to the right side of this because--

CORTES: I - I absolutely concur--

RYE: --Sir, you're in the wrong side of history.

CORTES: --I concur that it's a crisis.

RYE: In 1933, there were Concentration Camps. In 1941, they were death camps, and that is where we are going, if our - our consciences are not quickly pierced.

CORTES: Let me--

RYE: It is a problem.

CORTES: Let me tell you who agrees with me.

RYE: Do not laugh it off.

CORTES: Let me tell you who--

RYE: Do not laugh it off.

CORTES: Let me tell you who agrees with me about asylum. Barack Obama. This is what he said in 2014, and I'm quoting.

RYE: Oh, my God.

CORTES: Quote, "Refugee status is not granted"--

RYE: You guys are like the kings of red herrings.

CORTES: --"Refugee status is not granted just on economic need or because a family lives in a bad neighborhood or poverty."

CUOMO: Look, there - there - there's no question about that.

CORTES: And that is true.

RYE: What is your point?

CORTES: Asylum status--

CUOMO: There is no question about that. The Obama administration--

CORTES: Asylum status is for people who are fleeing for their lives because they are persecuted.

CUOMO: --wrestled with the same problem, we've been--

RYE: What is your point?

CUOMO: Hold on a second. We've been wrestling with this problem for 30 years. It's like a new parlor game. Anybody you want to go to, in any era, we've been fighting about these same issues.

But you've always wound up coming to a same crisis point, which is OK, we got to reform the rules. Congress never gets to that. There's a million reasons why. Most of them are bad. But the urgency becomes--

RYE: All of them are bad.

CUOMO: --on how you treat the humanity. In 2014, we went nuts about what was going on with the unaccompanied minors--

RYE: Yes.

CUOMO: --during the Obama administration because it was wrong. They didn't have the resources set up. They didn't have the right procedures. And these kids weren't being treated the right way. And we said "Never again." And now we're right back here.

And the one thing that I think should unite you guys is you all say this is wrong, what's happening at the Border, and not a damn thing has been done by either side to fix it.

The Left says, "We don't trust him to spend the money the right way, and they won't give us the right protections to take care of the kids the right way."

RYE: It's true. They built more detention centers.

CUOMO: And the Right says, "The Democrats don't want to do anything."

And the President says, "Even though I have an emergency declaration, and I can now loosen some purse strings, I only want to use it for the fence. And don't forget, my whole sell is of being harsh on these people. I'm not going to open my heart to them all the sudden."

And doesn't that just really sicken you, Steve that something that you admit as wrong, and that you identify with on one level as an ethnic, is being ignored by your own party as part of this problem?

CORTES: No. Listen, I - I don't think we're ignoring it at all. I love legal immigration.

CUOMO: What has been done?

CORTES: And I want to -

CUOMO: What has been done to help the kids?

CORTES: And I wanted to help preserve--

CUOMO: McAleenan keeps asking for money. And you guys have not put anything forward. McConnell won't even put it on the floor.

CORTES: Look, I'm not answering for McConnell. I don't know why they haven't done the legislation there.

CUOMO: The hell you're not.

CORTES: I agree with you.

CUOMO: He's in your party. And you're here to defend the administration.

CORTES: I agree. I'm not - I'm not--

CUOMO: He's part of it.

CORTES: That means I answer for him? I don't answer for him.

And the - and the Senate should absolutely pass something because they can, because they have the votes, and I agree. And, by the way, Paul Ryan, when he was Speaker, should have done something.

And I - I will say to the GOP's great discredit, when they controlled both Houses, they did not address immigration, and they should have. And I believe it's one of the reasons we lost in 2018.

CUOMO: And when you guys had both Houses--

CORTES: It's not because of the Democrats.

CUOMO: --you didn't do a damn thing about either, except put all your money behind a fence that doesn't--

CORTES: That's - I just said much to--

CUOMO: --help with the current problem.

CORTES: --I just said much - much to their discredit. But here's the thing. What AOC - let's get back to AOC where we started. The fact that she's trying to equate us with Nazis--

RYE: Oh, now you want to get back to the topic!

CORTES: --because we believe in Border control, if her logic holds, then Barack Obama, who deported more people than all other U.S. presidents combined--

CUOMO: Remember that.

CORTES: --by her logic, then Barack Obama is a Nazi.

CUOMO: Remember that.

CORTES: However, we don't seem to hear that.

CUOMO: Next time the President says that he's gotten rid of more people than anybody--

RYE: Are you kidding me? I can't believe that's--

CUOMO: --remember that the opposite is true.

RYE: --where you end up.

CUOMO: Remember when it comes to enforcing the law, Steve, that this President's nowhere clear to being close to the last administration. What he's done is encouraged a flow that we see right now.

I got to leave it there, Angela Rye, Steve Cortes. Just both of you go home with this. Neither side has fixed a problem that everybody acknowledges is happening. We got to do better than this.


What Cortes said it absolutely spot on. Comparing Border Patrol detention centers to Nazi concentration camps is really sickening. Comparing illegal aliens who break America's immigration laws and being detained isn't the same as Jews in Germany and Poland being rounded up and shipped off to do hard labor or even be executed. ICE resources are overwhelmed. Detainees are being placed in centers that aren't adequate for long-term housing. We know that. It's become accepted fact. No one is denying that. But the comparison is not just ignorant, it's wrong. 

The truth of the matter is this: the Republicans could have taken serious steps towards addressing our immigration crisis when they had both Houses. They didn't. That's a fact. Now President Trump has to battle the Democrats even more than he did before. Neither side has done an adequate job addressing the crisis. And things are only going to get worse before they get better. 

We need to put up a wall, close off our southern border, get more agents in the field and provide proper medical treatment to detainees. Our Border Patrol agents are putting their health, the health of their families and communities at risk when they come into contact with these illegal aliens. Having unhealthy, inhumane conditions doesn't only impact the illegal aliens but it's a public health crisis. 

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