Following a long tradition set by his predecessors, President Donald Trump will be making a statement with whom he chooses to bring as his guest to the State of the Union address.
Trump’s guest as he delivers his first State of the Union speech as president speaks volumes about where he stands on illegal immigration.
Trump has invited Evelyn Rodriguez to attend Tuesday’s annual speech. Rodriguez is a mother from Long Island whose 16-year-old daughter was brutally killed by MS-13 gang members.
“I just want what’s right to be done,” Rodriguez, 49, told The New York Times. “Everybody should put their political agenda aside and think about what’s going on in our country.”
Rodriguez will also meet with the president at the White House before the speech.
In 2016, Rodriguez’s daughter Kayla Cuevas and her 15-year-old friend Nisa Mickens were walking outside on a cul-de-sac late at night when they were approached by a group of MS-13 gang members who violently beat and stabbed them to death.
The killers used baseball bats and machetes as weapons.
An investigation found that Cuevas had been previously feuding with members of the gang on social media and at school. Mickens happened to be walking with her when they were attacked on Sept. 13, 2016, at around 8:30pm.
It has been almost a year since Suffolk County Police and federal authorities announced that the two teens were murdered by MS-13 gang members.
In March 2017, law enforcement apprehended 13 adult members belonging to the international gang, four of whom were charged with the murders.
Three of the four gang members charged were living in the country illegally.
The young girls’ deaths led many immigration hardliners to call for stricter border enforcement.
As for Rodriguez — who happens to be a registered Democrat — she does not want her daughter’s death or the larger immigration debate to be political. She has since become a local activist on the issue.
“I want him to ensure that we’re going to get the proper funding for the resources for our kids,” she stated. “I’m not here for anybody’s political gain.”
Her daughter’s brutal murder has not only highlighted the national immigration debate, but has also opened a window into what local school districts have had to endure in the face of waves of young immigrant children flooding the areas.
The Brentwood School District, where Cuevas attended before her death, has seen a massive influx of unaccompanied minors who entered the country illegally, many of them arriving alone with no parents or family.
Over 4,000 young migrants arrived as unaccompanied minors to the school district in the past several years alone, according to The Times.
Founded in Los Angeles in the 1980s by Salvadoran refugees, MS-13 boasts around 10,000 members in the U.S. They are widely know for their brutal killings.
A month after the murder of Cuevas and her friend, four young boys were murdered in the woods behind a Long Island soccer field. Law enforcement later determined members of MS-13 were responsible.
Trump’s choice of guest is in sharp contrast to others being brought by Democrat lawmakers, who are attempting to highlight their support of immigrants residing in the country illegally.
For example, Democrat Rep. Gerald E. Connolly of Virginia has invited a local high school student, Nicolle Uria, to attend the State of the Union address, according to The Washington Post.
Uria entered the country legally at a young age with her parents, who had received work visas. However, her family remained in the U.S. long after their visas expired.
She is now part the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program, otherwise known as DACA, an Obama-era executive order that protects young illegal immigrants from deportation.
Trump announced last year that he was rescinding the executive order made by his predecessor, but he has expressed interest in enacting a legislative fix for the program. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are currently debating a bill that will address DACA and immigration enforcement, while Trump has insisted on increased funding for border security, including a wall.
Connolly is bringing Uria as a symbol of protest against Trump’s actions.
“She and so many other Dreamers are exactly the young people we don’t want to turn away from our country,” the Democrat said. “They are what makes America such a great nation.”
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