What to Know
- 16-year-old Kayla Cuevas and her 15-year-old friend were violently killed in September 2016
- Alleged MS-13 gang members have been blamed for their deaths and those of other teens on Long Island
- Cuevas parents said she is going to President Trump's State of the Union speech to bring light to the issue of gang violence
The mother of a 16-year-old Long Island girl who was beaten to death by alleged MS-13 gang members was invited by the White House to sit in the audience as President Donald Trump gives his State of the Union address.
Evelyn Rodriguez also was invited to meet with the Republican president before Tuesday's speech.
Her daughter, Kayla Cuevas, and her 15-year-old friend, Nisa Mickens, were killed in a Long Island neighborhood that has become the epicenter in the fight against MS-13 violence. The gang is blamed for 25 killings on Long Island since January 2016. Trump has blamed the violence on lax immigration policies.
Rodriguez told The New York Times that she was honored to be invited and said it wasn't about immigration.
"I'm not here for anybody's political gain," Rodriguez said. "I just want what's right to be done. Everybody should put their political agenda aside and think about what's going on in our country."
MS-13, or the Mara Salvatrucha, is believed by federal prosecutors to have thousands of members across the U.S., primarily immigrants from Central America. It has a stronghold in Los Angeles, where it emerged in the 1980s as a neighborhood street gang, but it also has wreaked violence in cities and suburbs across the U.S.
Prosecutors said Kayla was targeted because of ongoing disputes with gang members at her school. They said her lifelong friend, Nisa, was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The girls' alleged killers were facing murder charges that could result in the death penalty.