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Presiden Obama and Argentinian President Mauricio Macri deliver a joint press conference in Buenos Aires, on March 23, 2016.
Nicholas Kamm—AFP/Getty Images

While urging countries across the world to work together to fight ISIS, President Obama on Wednesday denounced Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz’s suggestion that police need to “patrol and secure” Muslim neighborhoods in the U.S.

In the wake of the Brussels terrorist attacks, Cruz had called Tuesday for the federal government to “empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.” Speaking during a news conference with President Mauricio Macri of Argentina, Obama said Wednesday that it would not only be “wrong and un-American, but it would also be counterproductive.”

“I just left a country that engages in that kind of surveillance which, by the way, the father of Senator Cruz escaped, to America, the land of the free,” said the President, who spent the past two days in Cuba. “The notion that would we start down that slippery slope makes absolutely no sense.”

ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attacks in Brussels, which left at least 34 dead and more than 200 injured.

“We can—and will—defeat those who threaten the safety and security of people all around the world,” Obama said.

Obama was asked if the latest attacks have in any way influenced his current approach to defeating the terrorist group. The U.S. and a coalition of countries have been conducting airstrikes on ISIS strongholds and training and working with forces on the ground.

“This is my number one priority,” he said. “My top priority is to defeat [ISIS] and eliminate the scourge of this barbaric terrorism that’s been taking place around the world. The issue is how do we do it in an intelligent way.”

The President said the ongoing approach will continue and that the U.S. government is “vigilant” about stopping attacks from happening on American soil.

“Groups like [ISIS] can’t destroy us. They can’t defeat us. They are vicious killers and murderers who’ve perverted one of the worlds great religions,” Obama said. “It is very important for us to not respond with fear.”

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