One of the longest standing ovations during President Trump’s first State of the Union address came when he introduced the parents of two teenage victims of gang violence.
Evelyn Rodriguez, Freddy Cuevas, Elizabeth Alvarado and Robert Mickens were invited by the White House to attend Tuesday’s speech. Their daughters — Kayla Cuevas and Nisa Mickens respectively — were killed by members of the MS-13 gang on Long Island in September 2016, on the eve of Nisa’s 16th birthday. Federal authorities later arrested 13 gang members in connection with their deaths. Ten of those arrested had entered the country illegally.
Trump used their killings to highlight what he views as America’s “open borders” that “have allowed drugs and gangs to pour into our most vulnerable communities.”
“These two precious girls were brutally murdered while walking together in their hometown,” Trump said. “Six members of the savage gang MS-13 have been charged with Kayla and Nisa’s murders. Many of these gang members took advantage of glaring loopholes in our laws to enter the country as unaccompanied alien minors — and wound up in Kayla and Nisa’s high school.”
The president turned to their parents, who were seated next to first lady Melania Trump.
“Evelyn, Elizabeth, Freddy, and Robert: Tonight, everyone in this chamber is praying for you,” Trump said. “Everyone in America is grieving for you. And 320 million hearts are breaking for you. We cannot imagine the depth of your sorrow, but we can make sure that other families never have to endure this pain.”
The parents then received a long standing ovation as they wiped away tears.
Trump called on Congress to “finally close the deadly loopholes that have allowed MS-13 and other criminals to break into our country.”
“We have proposed new legislation that will fix our immigration laws and support our ICE and Border Patrol agents, so that this cannot ever happen again,” he continued. “So tonight, I am extending an open hand to work with members of both parties — Democrats and Republicans — to protect our citizens of every background, color, religion and creed. My duty, and the sacred duty of every elected official in this chamber, is to defend Americans — to protect their safety, their families, their communities, and their right to the American Dream. Because Americans are dreamers too.”
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