WASHINGTON — The parents of two teenage girls beaten to death by alleged MS-13 gang members on Long Island wiped away tears as President Trump honored them during his State of the Union address.
"Tonight, everyone in this chamber is praying for you," Trump said to the parents. "Everyone in America is grieving for you."
They were invited by the White House to attend the address Tuesday night.
Evelyn Rodriguez also was invited to meet with the Republican president before the speech.
Her daughter, Kayla Cuevas, and her 15-year-old friend were killed in a Long Island neighborhood that has become the epicenter in the fight against MS-13 violence.
"While we cannot imagine the depths of that kind of sorrow," Trump said. "We can make sure other families never have to endure this kind of pain. Tonight, I am calling on Congress to finally close the deadly loopholes that allow MS-13 and other criminal gangs to break into our country. We have proposed new legislation that will fix our immigration laws."
Lifelong friends Kayla Cuevas and Nisa Mickens were attacked and killed near their Long Island homes. Prosecutors say 16-year-old Kayla was targeted because of ongoing disputes with gang members at her school. They say 15-year-old Nisa was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The girls' alleged killers, who were arrested in March along with about a dozen other alleged MS-13 members, are facing murder charges that could result in the death penalty.
The deaths of Kayla and Nisa put a sharpened focus on what had already been a spate of gang violence on Long Island. Police have investigated 11 slayings in Brentwood and nearby Central Islip, including that of the two teen-aged friends, since last September; a total of 19 suspected MS-13 killings have occurred on Long Island since January 2016.
Rodriguez told The New York Times she was honored to be invited and said it wasn’t about immigration.
She said everybody should put their political agenda aside and think about what’s going on in the country.