By Arab News
Republican presidential candidates seized on the terror bombings in Brussels Tuesday to demand that Muslim refugees be kept out of the United States, blaming Europe’s open immigration policies for the outrage.
Ted Cruz said Tuesday that surveillance in Muslim neighborhoods in the US must be intensified.
Echoing his rival Donald Trump, Cruz said the US should stop the flow of refugees from countries where the Daesh militant group has a significant presence. The Daesh took credit for the Brussels attacks that killed at least 34 people Tuesday and wounded many more.
“We need to empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized,” the Texas senator said in a statement.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, condemned Cruz’s call for surveillance, saying it sends “an alarming message to American-Muslims who increasingly fear for their future in this nation and to all Americans who value the Constitution and religious liberties.”
Trump, who spoke to Fox News as developments in Brussels were unfolding, said he had warned about such attacks.
“Brussels was a beautiful city, a beautiful place with zero crime, and now it’s a disaster city. A total disaster,” he said.
In December, following attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, Trump called for a temporary and conditional ban on Muslims coming to the United States. He described Brussels as a “hellhole” because of its radical elements and their connection to the Paris attacks.
Trump repeated his call for closing US borders “until we figure out what’s going on” — a call Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton said was unrealistic.
“Belgium is a horror show right now. Terrible things are happening. People are leaving. People are afraid. This all happened because, frankly, there’s no assimilation,” he said on NBC News.
Texas Senator Ted Cruz also called for suspending the resettlement of refugees from countries where the Daesh group or Al-Qaeda control territory, saying the administration’s plans to bring in tens of thousands of Syrians fleeing the civil war there “makes no sense.”
“We need a president who unleashes the full force and fury on ISIS and utterly destroys them. That the only way to keep us safe,” he said, referring to Daesh by an alternate acronym.
The apparently coordinated bomb blasts in Brussels — for which the Daesh group claimed responsibility — ripped through the city’s international airport and a metro train in a station, killing about 35 people.
The attacks came four days after Belgian authorities arrested Salah Abdeslam, the prime suspect in the November 2015 Paris attacks claimed by the Daesh group.
In the United States, the scenes from Brussels added fuel to an already inflamed Republican debate over immigration and the conduct of a US-led war against Daesh fighters, who control large swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria.
“Belgium is no longer Belgium. Belgium is not the Belgium you and I knew from 20 years ago, which was one of the most beautiful and safest cities in the world,” Trump told NBC.
Asked what he would say to the American people in the immediate aftermath of a terror attack, he added: “We are going to be very vigilant and tough. We’re not going to allow it to happen to our country.
“If it happens, we’ll find the people who did it and they’ll suffer greatly.”
Speaking to Fox News, Trump — who has called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States — described Brussels as once being “a beautiful city, a beautiful place with zero crime. And now it’s a disaster city. It’s a total disaster.
“We have to be very careful in the United States. We have to be very, very vigilant as to who we allow into this country.”
Clinton — who could possibly face Trump in November’s general election — countered that it was “unrealistic to say we’re going to completely shut down our borders to everyone.”
Ohio Governor John Kasich, the more moderate of the three remaining candidates in the Republican race, urged Obama to move quickly to examine US vulnerabilities and “dig in and begin to rebuild the intelligence we need worldwide.”
“I think Europe popped up its doors without having a proper vetting process,” he said, referring to the waves of immigrants from the Syrian civil war that have pushed into Europe.
He faulted Obama for not acting forcefully enough to bring down Syria’s President Bashar Assad and for failing to establish no-fly zones.
Both Cruz and Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton criticized Trump for saying Monday that NATO “is costing us a fortune” and the US should diminish its role in the coming years. Cruz said the suggestion of withdrawing from NATO is a “pre-emptive surrender.”
Speaking to CNN, Clinton called NATO “the best international defense alliance, I think, ever.” She reasserted her view that the US should embrace, rather than alienate, Muslim communities, saying “we want them to report it; we want them to be part of protecting the United States.”
Democratic hopeful Bernie Sanders, campaigning in Arizona on Tuesday, said boosting national security and protecting civil rights must go hand-in-hand. He said he strongly disagrees with calls by some Republicans for heightened domestic surveillance of Muslims.
“That would be unconstitutional — it would be wrong,” Sanders said.
Asked about Cruz’s comment, none of a half-dozen conservative House Republicans meeting with reporters Tuesday criticized him and most spoke of the need to keep the country safe.
“Nearly every neighborhood is patrolled. That’s what local law enforcement does,” said Rep. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, who has endorsed Cruz. He said he didn’t know specifically what Cruz was referring to.
“We need to do everything that makes good common sense, that’s in the best interests of national security, but obviously it needs to be done in a way that’s consistent with the Constitution,” said Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio.