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State of the Union: Trump addresses parents of gang victims

President Trump addressed the parents of two victims of the gang MS-13 in attendance at his first State of the Union address on Tuesday night. Mr. Trump introduced the parents -- Elizabeth Alvardo, Robert Mickens, Evelyn Rodriguez and Freddy Cuevas -- and told the story of Long Island teens Kayla Cuevas and Nisa Mickens, who were killed in 2016.

"These two precious girls were brutally murdered while walking together in their hometown. 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," Mr. Trump said.

"Everyone in America is grieving for you," he continued. "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."

President Trump Addresses The Nation In His First State Of The Union Address To Joint Session Of  Congress

Evelyn Rodriguez and Freddy Cuevas, parents of children who were murdered by MS-13 watch as President Trump delivers the State of the Union address in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives January 30, 2018 in Washington, D.C. 

Alex Wong / Getty

On September 13, the day before her 16th birthday, Nisa Mickens' brutally beaten body was found on a tree-lined street. The next day, the beaten body of her lifelong friend, 16-year-old Kayla Cuevas, was discovered in the wooded backyard of a nearby home.  In March, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York announced 13 defendants were charged with seven murders, including the deaths of Nisa and Kayla. 

Mr. Trump called on Congress to close "deadly loophole"s that have allowed gang members "break into" the U.S. "We have proposed new legislation that will fix our immigration laws, and support our [Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)] and Border Patrol Agents, so that this cannot ever happen again."

He continued by offering to work with both Democrats and Republicans to protects Americans of "every background, color, religion, and creed."  

Across the country, brutal crimes linked to MS-13 have recently captured headlines, and the U.S. Department of Justice announced a crackdown in 2017.

On Tuesday, Mr. Trump also recognized Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent Celestino Martinez, who goes by C.J. Mr. Trump said Martinez served 15 years in the U.S. Air Force before becoming an ICE agent where he has spent the "last 15 years fighting gang violence and getting dangerous criminals off our streets."  

President Trump Addresses The Nation In His First State Of The Union Address To Joint Session Of  Congress

Elzabeth Alvarado, Evelyn Rodriguez and Freddy Cuevas, parents of children who were murdered by MS-13 watch as U.S. President  Trump delivers the State of the Union address in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives January 30, 2018 in Washington, D.C. 

Alex Wong / Getty

"At one point, MS-13 leaders ordered C.J.'s murder. But he did not cave to threats or fear. Last May, he commanded an operation to track down gang members on Long Island. His team has arrested nearly 400, including more than 220 from MS-13," Mr. Trump said.

MS-13, also called Mara Salvatrucha or "gang of Salvadoran guys," is headquartered in El Salvador, according to the FBI. In 2012, MS-13 was designated a transnational criminal organization by the Treasury Department, which said the gang  is involved in "serious transnational criminal activities, including drug trafficking, kidnapping, human smuggling, sex trafficking, murder, assassinations, racketeering, blackmail, extortion, and immigration offenses."