President Donald Trump was on Long Island Wednesday to hold a roundtable discussion on the violent MS-13 gang, and to push his immigration policy.
Trump was joined by federal and local law enforcement officials, Republican Representatives Peter King, Dan Donovan, and Lee Zeldin. Also in attendance were the parents of Kayla Cuevas and Nisa Mickens, two girls who were killed almost two years ago by MS-13 gang members in Brentwood.
Evelyn Rodriguez, Kayla Cuevas’ mother, praised Trump for his fight against MS-13. “My daughter Kayla was a beautiful girl. She had dreams. And they took that away from her,” Rodriguez said.
16-year-old Kayla and her 15-year-old friend Nisa suffered what then-Suffolk Police Commissioner Tim Sini called some of the worst wounds he had ever seen.
Nisa Mickens’ father, Robert, talked about missing his daughter everyday.
“You know we’ve missed two birthdays of hers. This would have been a graduating year this year, and it’s very sad that all these loopholes all these past couple of years, decades, that allow these criminals to come into our country, to our towns, and to our states to do whatever they want and feel they can get away with it.”
Both sets of parents told Trump that they appreciate the support that he has given them, and for his efforts to both tighten immigration laws, especially when it comes to undocumented minors, and to take out the gang.
Trump also heard pleas from local law enforcement for more federal funding to fight MS-13.
“It’s a menace. A ruthless gang that has violated our borders and has transformed once peaceful neighborhoods into bloodstained killing fields,” Trump said. “And see towns that I have known all my life, I grew up here. I know every one of the towns and it’s unthinkable. That it’s almost like an occupied territory where your children are afraid to go out, and in many cases if they go out, bad things happen.”
Trump criticized U.S. immigration laws, including what he called lax asylum standards. The President and most of the panel also blasted Democrats for what they called the Democrats’ defense of MS-13 and undocumented minors.
“Crippling loopholes in our laws have enabled MS-13 gang members and other criminals to infiltrate our communities, and Democrats in Congress refuse to close these loopholes,” Trump said.
During the meeting, Trump said he was coming up with a plan to deduct foreign aid from countries each time someone from those nations comes into the U.S. illegally. He also again defended his use of the word “animals” to describe the violent gang.
Last week the President drew criticism because it was unclear if he used the word “animals” to describe just gang members or all immigrants. He clarified earlier this week and again at the forum that he was referring to gang members. He then criticized Democrats.
“Nancy Pelosi, as an example, are trying to defend MS-13 gang members. I called them animals the other day and I was met with rebuke. They said they’re people. They’re not people. They’re animals.”
In her remarks last week, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was clear that she was defending immigrants as people. She made no mention of MS-13.
Outside the forum, protesters said Trump was using MS-13 as a proxy to speak hatefully about Latino immigrants.