By Rachel Terry, Contributing Writer

Imagine a neighborhood where cameras capture residents’ every move, phones are wiretapped, and undercover police saunter up and down the streets and cruise around in unmarked cars observing interactions between friends and families as they go about their day. Is this the America we want the next generation to see?

After the Brussels attacks on March 22, Ted Cruz called for law enforcement to focus on patrolling and securing Muslim neighborhoods in an effort to control the spread of radical Islam. Not only is this proposal unconstitutional, but it also promotes fear, division and prejudice, three problems adding to the turmoil in modern American society.

Cruz’s explanation for his statement includes the idea that Muslim neighborhoods may be “festering jihadism.” Considering that the majority of recent lethal attacks on American soil have been administered by far-right-wing supporters rather than Muslims, his statement is ill-informed. According to reporter Dylan Petrohilos, the U.S. has resettled more than 784,000 refugees since Sept. 11, 2001, many who have been Muslims, and zero of those resettlements have resulted in any kind of terror plot against the country. [pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]If the U.S. desires to combat modern terrorism, the country needs to first increase our foreign aid in developing countries. [/pullquote]

As a template for his proposal, Cruz referenced the failed NYPD surveillance program targeting Muslim communities. Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York City, had implemented the program after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Bloomberg’s plan proved largely unsuccessful—the program did not result in a single lead or piece of useful information, much less an arrest or conviction.

Former program supervisor NYPD Lieutenant Hector Berdecia described the failed plan as “paying undercover officers to sit in cafes frequented by Muslims, drinking tea and eating sweets at taxpayer expense, generating no useful intelligence to protect New Yorkers or fuel prosecutions.” The city also was tasked with paying $1.6 million in lawsuits over the program.

If the U.S. desires to combat modern terrorism, the country needs to first increase our foreign aid in developing countries. Last year, the Kaiser Family Foundation polled 1,505 people regarding the breakdown of the federal budget. The average response estimated that 26 percent of the budget goes toward foreign aid. As Dr. Stephen Zunes reported, the U.S. spends 0.19 percent of the federal budget on assisting other countries, one third of which automatically goes to Israel. This is well below the 0.24 average for all Western countries. The United Arab Emirates has even started giving 1.25 percent of its gross national income to foreign aid.

According to an AidData study done by Joseph K. Young and Michael Findley, a one standard deviation increase in education aid will decrease the amount of terrorist attacks by more than 71 percent. This same increase in conflict aid will also decrease terrorist attacks by more than 32 percent. Terrorist attacks will decrease by 39 percent with a one standard deviation increase in health aid as well. Lastly, the same increase in governance and civil society aid will also cause an estimated 40 percent decrease in attacks.

The time has come for the U.S. to step it up and contribute its fair share of resources to programs that will increase the quality of life for those stuck in developing nations and on the run as refugees. Clearly this is one of the best methods of proactively preventing terrorism. According to what has happened in the past, suspiciously monitoring Muslim neighborhoods will only lead to wasted time, energy and taxpayer money. Instead, increasing foreign aid will lead to less recruitment into extremist groups and, therefore, fewer terrorist attacks.

As a country, let’s reevaluate our spending priorities and refuse to let fear drive us into paralyzing suspicion and greed. If we have the power and money to influence international relations in a positive way, then we should.