Pence targets Ocasio-Cortez's concentration camp comments in remarks to pro-Israel group

Vice President Pence on Monday tore into Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezObamas' first Netflix project nominated for Critics' Choice Documentary Awards Sanders wishes Ocasio-Cortez happy birthday Democrat launches primary challenge to Ocasio-Cortez MORE (D-N.Y.) for likening detention facilities near the southern border to "concentration camps" as he spoke to a pro-Israel group in Washington, D.C.

The vice president did not mention Ocasio-Cortez by name, but seized on her remarks in a lengthy portion of his speech that began with his recollection of visiting the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp earlier this year.

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"We must never allow the memory of those lost in the Holocaust to be cheapened as a cliché to advance some left-wing political narrative," Pence said at the Christians United for Israel’s annual summit.

"Sadly, in recent weeks, that’s exactly what some Democrats have done in the national debate," he continued. "Last month, a leading Democrat in Congress actually compared our U.S. Customs and Border Protection detection facilities to concentration camps."

Ocasio-Cortez's office declined to comment on the vice president's speech.

The first-term Democrat sparked controversy and attracted bipartisan criticism last month when she said the country is "running concentration camps on our southern border" in describing the facilities being used to hold migrants coming into the U.S.

Numerous Republicans and a few Democrats, such as N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), spoke out in opposition to her use of the term, which is typically associated with the Holocaust.

Others, including Rep. Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerBarr to speak at Notre Dame law school on Friday The 13 House Democrats who back Kavanaugh's impeachment Ignore the hype — this is not an impeachment inquiry MORE (D-N.Y.), came to Ocasio-Cortez's defense, arguing it is an accurate and necessary description of what's happening at the border.

Conditions in the detention facilities have become a flashpoint in the immigration debate, particularly after reports that the facilities are unsanitary and lack resources like food and soap.

Pence on Monday criticized those who he said have "shamefully" defended the comments.

“To compare the humane work of dedicated men and women of Customs and Border Protection with the horrors of the Holocaust is an outrage," Pence said. "The Nazis took lives, American law enforcement save lives every day."

"This slander of law enforcement was an insult to the 6 million killed in the Holocaust," he added.

Ocasio-Cortez, who did not invoke the Holocaust in her original remarks, has stood by her description in subsequent tweets and interviews. She told CNN late last month that she had communicated with Holocaust survivors about how the border facilities are "not the same thing" as the Nazi slaughter of Jews during World War II.

Democrats, including Ocasio-Cortez, expressed outrage over the treatment of migrants after a group of lawmakers traveled to the border last week to tour one of the holding centers in Clint, Texas.

A government watchdog report released last week described the facilities as having standing room only cells for migrants, who were not fed hot meals or given showers. The centers also continue to hold children, some of whom are showing up at the border unaccompanied, the report said.

Ocasio-Cortez was among four House Democrats who broke with party leadership to vote against a bill providing $4.5 billion in emergency border funding, including resources for humanitarian aid.

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Pence on Monday chastised the four lawmakers for having the "gall" to vote against the funding package.

He went on to defend the Trump administration's efforts to address the flow of immigrants toward the southern border and government workers' efforts to care for young migrants.

"Under this president's leadership, we will secure our border," Pence said. "We will provide compassionate relief to vulnerable families swept up in the crisis, and we will fix this broken immigration system once and for all."

Updated at 12:28 p.m.