For the past year, alleged crime activity by MS-13 (Mara Salvatrucha), the El Salvadoran-based gang has been a pressing news topic on Long Island.
Last week, the tragic consequences of this menace was part of President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union address. The president devoted a section of the address to immigration. As part of his efforts to secure funding for a border wall, while seeking to eliminate both the visa lottery and chain migration, Trump cited the trials of four Long Island parents who had been invited to attend the speech.
“Here tonight are two fathers and two mothers: Evelyn Rodriguez, Freddy Cuevas, Elizabeth Alvarado and Robert Mickens,” the president said. “Their two teenage daughters—Kayla Cuevas and Nisa Mickens—were close friends on Long Island. But in September 2016, on the eve of Nisa’s 16th birthday, neither of them came home. 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.
“Evelyn, Elizabeth, Freddy, and Robert: Tonight, everyone in this chamber is praying for you,” Trump continued. “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. Tonight, I am calling on the 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.”
The president placed blame on the crimes, in part, to longtime immigration policies that Trump claimed “have allowed drugs and gangs to pour into our most vulnerable communities. They have allowed millions of low-wage workers to compete for jobs and wages against the poorest Americans. Most tragically, they have caused the loss of many innocent lives.”
The homicides, as noted, took place in 2016, the year when the MS-13 problem began to hit home. According to prosecutors, the young Kayla Cuevas was targeted because of disputes with gang members. Her friend just happened to be accompanying her when the alleged crime took place. Police acknowledge that 19 suspected MS-13-related homicides have occurred on Long Island since January 2016.
Last year, both President Trump and Attorney General Jefferson Sessions traveled to Suffolk County to address MS-13 activity. State and local political leaders have done the same. In his own State of the State address, Gov. Andrew Cuomo singled out MS-13. In January, Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas announced the indictment of 17 alleged members and associates of the MS-13 gang on various charges of murder, conspiracy to commit murder and drug trafficking in Nassau County and nationally. All 17 of the defendants, Singas said, face up to 25 years-to-life in prison on if convicted on their top charges.
To gain the indictments, Singas’ office worked with law enforcement agencies, not only in Suffolk County and both in Washington, DC and San Salvador, El Salvador, but also those in Baltimore, Anne Arundel County, Harford County and Prince George’s County, all in Maryland, the Bedford County (VA) sheriff’s office, plus the Jefferson County district attorney’s office and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Houston division, both in Texas. It was an effort that dramatized MS-13 national and international reach.