Rep. Henry Cuellar: Unlike AOC, I Wouldn’t Call Detention Centers ‘Concentration Camps’

By Melanie Arter | June 19, 2019 | 3:12pm EDT

( – Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), in an interview on Fox News Channel on Wednesday said he wouldn’t call Border Patrol detention centers “concentration camps” as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez did, but he stopped short of calling for her to apologize.

In an interview with “America’s Newsroom,” Cuellar said Ocasio-Cortez “has a different perception of what we have done there at the border.”


“Again, I live at the border. I’ve been to those detention centers. I call them detention centers – and keep in mind, that if you’re talking about children, those shelters are taken care of by or run by non-profits under the Health and Human Services if they’re unaccompanied kids. So it’s a Health and Human Services shelter run under the rules and regulation,” he said.

“If they’re families, then it’s a different type of situation. If they’re male adults, then you’re talking about a different detention center, so again, there are different type of facilities that are run either by ICE or..” Cuellar said.



“Senator, you are exactly right, and she’s wrong. Why don’t you say it?” host Bill Hemmer asked.

“Again, just like President Trump, I’ll respect what he has to say. I might disagree, and other members, I will respect what they say, but I might disagree,” Cuellar said.

When asked whether he respects the way Ocasio-Cortez characterized detention centers, Cuellar said, “Again, there are people on the left. There are people on the right that I just don’t agree with the different positions again---“

“Congressman, she said that the United States is running concentration camps at our border. Do you agree with that comment or not? It’s a simple question,” co-host Sandra Smith said.

“I will tell you again, I’ve been to those shelters for children – I call them shelters. If there are families, there are detentions, so again, I don’t know what she was referring to, but I would not use the concentration word,” Cuellar said.

“I’ll tell you what she was referring to. Fair enough on that point. She went on to say this: ‘I don’t use that word lightly. I use that word because that is what an administration that creates concentration camps is. Never Again means something,” Hemmer said.

“When she uses the phrase ‘never again,’ all Jews in the room know exactly to what she is referring to, so you can argue the definition of what a concentration camp is. You can suggest that it refers to Auschwitz or something on the southwestern border, but when you use the phrase, ‘never again,’ that is incendiary language. Do you believe she owes an apology to Jews in America or around the world?” he asked.

Cuellar said he wouldn’t say who should make an apology – “whether it’s the president or a member of Congress.”

“I would not call those concentration camps. If they’re for children, they’re shelters run by non-profits, Health and Human Services. I know that from my Jewish friends, there were some particular reactions as you mentioned,” he said.

When asked what he has heard from his Jewish friends about Ocasio-Cortez’s remarks, Cuellar simply said, “They certainly don’t call them concentration camps. That is something else different.”

When asked where the Democratic leaders in Cuellar’s caucus is on the issue and why they haven’t said something about Ocasio-Cortez’s comments, Cuellar said, “That again I don’t know, but I will tell you that right now, we’re working on the appropriations. We’ve been working late at night. As you know, one of our colleagues has been keeping us late at night.

“I sit on the Appropriations, on Defense, on Homeland and AG, and that’s where my concentration’s at. I’m giving you my opinion. I’ve been there. They’re shelters. They’re detentions. I would not use another term,” he said.

When asked whether the Democrats should say something about Ocasio-Cortez’s remarks, Cuellar said, “I think at a particular time you will see members say what they feel they should talk about. I don’t know what they’re going to say. I’m just telling you what I can say, and again, I don’t call those—I don’t use that term. I go there. I live in that area, so I’m familiar with the shelters or the detention centers.”

In an Instagram live video on Monday, Ocasio-Cortez said, “The United States is running concentration camps on our southern border and that is exactly what they are.

“They are concentration camps,” she said. "I want to talk to the people that are concerned enough with humanity to say that 'never again' means something.

Ocasio-Cortez added: "The fact that concentration camps are now an institutionalized practice in the 'Home of the Free' is extraordinarily disturbing and we need to do something about it."

On the issue of sanctuary cities, Cuellar said, he doesn’t support them.

“I don’t support sanctuary cities. In fact, I don’t think I have any sanctuary cities in my congressional district. Again, I just feel that no matter what the law is – whether it’s immigration or whatever other law, all laws should be applied across the nation, and if somebody has a different thought, then we need to change the law,” he said.

When asked why so many Democrats believe cities and states have the right to declare themselves sanctuary cities, Cuellar said, “Again, you gotta ask them. My personal opinion is I don’t support sanctuary cities. We gotta make sure that we enforce the laws across and not make any exceptions in any city for any sort of law – not only immigration, but any sort of law. No exceptions unless you want to change the law.”

When asked to characterize President Donald Trump’s achievements so far on the border crisis, the congressman said, “I believe making sure that we have strong, sensible border security. I’m one of those congressman that I live on the border. I don’t go visit the border for a few hours, so I know the border. I spend a lot of time with my Border Patrol agents and other law enforcement officials on the border.

“No open borders. We gotta enforce the law. If you really look at it—I think the president under the Trump administration has only done a few miles under his administration of fencing new miles. The rest have been replacement fencing that we have. Again, I want to add more border security, more technology, but again, I’m one of those that just don’t believe in a 14th century solution to a 21st Century problem,” he said.

“But you would believe what the president said, if you support sanctuary cities you should not be allowed to run for president of the United States. Based on your answers, it seems like you’re in agreement with him on that,” Hemmer said.

“No, no. Again, I’ll let the candidates run. They have their own opinions, and I respect their own opinions. You asked me if I support sanctuary cities. I do not support sanctuary cities,” Cuellar said.

When asked whether he would vote for someone who supports sanctuary cities, the congressman said, “We all have differences, and I know when a person runs for president might have certain ideas, but at the end of the day, it is Congress that has to pass the law, so they might come in with certain particular ideas, but at the end of the day, it’s going to be Congress that changes the law.”


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