HOUSTON (CN) - Sen. Ted Cruz's call for police patrolling of Muslim neighborhoods doesn't make sense for cities like Houston, where Muslims don't live in one particular area, an advocacy group attorney says.
After the March 22 bombings at an airport and train station in Belgium, which killed 35 and injured more than 300, Cruz said that U.S. law enforcement should increase patrols of Muslim neighborhoods, akin to focusing on gang-infested neighborhoods, to prevent radical Islam from taking root.
But Arsalan Safiullah, a staff attorney with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in Houston, said that Cruz's idea is a non-starter.
"I think he's just playing to his base and trying to get some of Donald Trump's supporters. Where is a Muslim neighborhood? Let's take Houston. It has one of the largest Muslim populations. I don't know where one is," Safiullah said in an interview in his office near downtown Houston.
Safiullah, 37, has a bachelor's degree in biochemistry, a master's degree in biotechnology and a law degree. He said that despite his background in science he believes he can do the most good as a CAIR attorney, advocating for the civil rights of Muslims.
Cruz, a Texas senator and Republican presidential hopeful, told CNN last week that his idea for Muslim-focused policing would be akin to a New York City program implemented by former mayor Michael Bloomberg that used demographic data to identify ethnic pockets in the city.
Cruz also criticized NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton for shuttering the police department's "Demographics Unit."
Cruz's comments set off a war of words with Bratton, who wrote a March 26 column for the New York Daily News.
"Cruz repeated the false reports surrounding the NYPD Demographics Unit and my decision to abolish it because it wasn't serving any useful purpose," Bratton wrote. "He tried to depict the demise of the unit, as other ill-informed observers have done, as a knuckling under to the forces of political correctness rather than the sensible administrative decision that it was."
Bratton wrote that he shuttered the unit because it had attained its goal: "To map the ethnic makeup of the city to better understand the domain of the New York metropolitan area."
Cruz is a devout Christian and son of a preacher who fled the Castro regime in Cuba. The presidential candidate sees Islam as the undeniable source of terrorist ideology.
"Islamism is a political and theocratic philosophy that commands its adherents to wage jihad, to murder or forcibly convert the infidels (by which they mean everyone else). Islamism is the enemy, and it must be defeated," Cruz said in a March 28 column in the New York Daily News that he wrote in response to Bratton's editorial.
The FBI didn't respond to an email asking if the agency believes Cruz's idea of increasing law enforcement presence in Muslim neighborhoods is advisable, and if the agency's resources are more focused on watching social media for terrorist threats or individuals and neighborhoods.
Cruz struck a similar tone in November when he called for the United States to turn back Muslim refugees from Syria while accepting Christians from the war-torn country.
Ronald Rotunda is a Chapman University law professor, former member of the Harvard Law Review and noted expert on the Constitution. He said in an email that the Constitution does in fact give Congress the power to enforce immigration and control its borders in the manner Cruz suggested.
He cited the 1977 Supreme Court decision in Fiallo v. Bell which stated: "Congress' power to expel or exclude aliens is largely immune from judicial control."
After a Muslim husband and wife went on a shooting rampage and killed 14 people in San Bernardino, Calif., in December, Donald Trump said Muslims shouldn't be allowed in the country "until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on."
But Safiullah said Trump's idea shows a misunderstanding of how the U.S. immigration process works and what kind of Muslims it accepts.
"If you look at the Muslims in the United States, they tend to be extremely peaceful just because most of them are professionals. Most Americans think that anyone can come to the United States and become a green card holder, but there are classes and you take the ones that you want, in general," he said. "There [are] different classes of immigrants and most of them are from classes the U.S. feels they need to have."
He said the U.S. wants medical doctors, electrical engineers and scientists and Muslim immigrants fulfill those needs and generally keep their noses clean.
"If you take the average Muslim on the street, compared to the average American, the average Muslim will be less likely to be a criminal because of the type of people the U.S. took to come here," Safiullah said.Follow @@cam_langford
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