New York – After calling for law enforcement to “patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods” in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Brussels, Ted Cruz explained his proposal to reporters on Tuesday night, saying it is “good law enforcement” to target neighborhoods that may be “festering jihadism.”
“It is standard law enforcement — it is good law enforcement to focus on where threats are emanating from, and anywhere where there is a locust of radicalization, where there is an expending presence of radical Islamic terrorism,” Cruz told reporters on Tuesday evening in Manhattan. “We need law enforcement resources directed there, national security resources directed there.”
Cruz – amid pushback for directly targeting the Muslim-American population -- suggested the continuation of “political correctness costs lives.”
John Kasich, a Republican rival to Cruz’s presidential ambitions, pushed back on the proposal, saying the effort would add “more polarization” and “create divisions” in the U.S.
“In our country, we don’t want to create divisions where we say, ‘Okay, well your religion -- you're a Muslim, so therefore we're going to keep an eye on you,’” Kasich told a group of reporters in Minneapolis.
Donald Trump, in an interview on CNN on Tuesday night, said he supports Cruz’s plan “100 percent.”
Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), compared Cruz’s proposition to “the dark days of the 1930s” in Europe and “the interment of Japanese-Americans” in the 1940s, calling it “a very frightening image.”
Cruz repudiated the comparison at the press conference, saying: "I understand that there are those who seek political advantage and try to raise a scary specter.”
He instead compared it to ridding neighborhoods of gang activity and law enforcement’s efforts “to take them off the street.”
Cruz did not explain further how his plan would effectively patrol the neighborhoods besides the generalization that he would direct national security and law enforcement resources to these areas of concern.
The Texas senator did point to the New York Police Department’s old use of a “proactive policing program” under Mayor Michael Bloomberg. But the program, which ended in 2014 under Mayor Bill de Blasio, has faced a string of lawsuits – one still ongoing – questioning the constitutionality of the department’s extensive surveillance of Muslim-Americans in the region.
“What is a Muslim neighborhood? How many Muslims have to be in a neighborhood before it becomes worthy of checking papers and kicking in the doors of homes and businesses?” Hooper questioned to NBC News. “What constitutes a Muslim neighborhood?”
Hooper – exasperated in the phone call -- called “anti-Muslim bigotry” a “Republican thing.”
Last week, Cruz named nearly two-dozen foreign policy advisers he confers with on issues of national security. Several have drawn harsh critiques for their views of Muslims.
One of those is Frank Gaffney, a former Reagan administration official and now an adviser to Cruz, who asserts that the Muslim Brotherhood penetrates and manipulates the U.S. government and the Republican Party. And Gaffney has advocated for a congressional panel to investigate treason by American-Muslims, like the House Un-American Activities Committee that operated during the first several decades of the Cold War to identify threads of communism in the U.S.
Another adviser, Clare Lopez, who works at the same organization founded by Gaffney, recently suggested Sen. Joseph McCarthy was “absolutely spot on in just about everything he said about the level of infiltration” of communism and said affiliates of the Muslim Brotherhood are the “go-to advisers, if not appointees” in the Obama administration.
In an interview on CNN on Monday, Cruz suggested criticisms over his controversial advisers are rooted in the media getting “really nervous when you actually call out radical Islamic terrorism.”
Bernie Sanders added to the criticism of Cruz’s proposal on Tuesday afternoon, calling the notion “unconstitutional” and “wrong.”
This story first appeared on NBCNews.com.