NEW YORK (FOX5NY) - Evelyn Rodriguez's 16-year-old daughter, Kayla Cuevas, fell victim to gang violence on Long Island. She made a plea Thursday ahead of a visit of President Donald Trump.
"This is a problem, this is real, we live it every day," Rodriguez said. "Change has to occur."
Kayla and her friend Nisa Mickens were brutally murdered last September by alleged members of MS-13. Last week, officials announced the arrests of more than 15 members of the violent gang.
Nisa's father Robert Mickens said he welcomes Trump's visit.
"Hopefully he'll get a better understanding of what's going on out here," Mickens said. "And he needs to see it hands on himself."
Officials are holding MS-13 responsible for at least 17 murders on Long Island since January 2016. These deaths prompted U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to pledge his support during a visit in April. Rodriguez and Mickens, who spoke with Sessions, said they have seen noticeable differences in the community but more needs to be done.
"We need more programs for our kids, we need more programs in our schools," Rodriguez said. "That shouldn't be ever, ever even thought about cutting."
Not everyone is as hopeful. Immigrant groups are planning to protest Trump's visit. They said the White House is using local tragedies to fuel their anti-immigrant agenda.
"The oldest rivalry on Long Island has been going on between these two gangs and no, it's not MS-13 and 18th Street, it's not the Bloods and Crips," Sergio Argueta, the founder of S.T.R.O.N.G., said Thursday. "It's the 'Democrips' and the 'Rebloodicans' -- the most cold-hearted gangsters in the country."
But Rep. Peter King, R-New York, said he disagrees. He called Trump's visit "historic" with one purpose in mind.
"For those who question his motives on immigration, questioning his motives on going after MS-13 -- they should be ashamed of themselves for putting politics and selfish self-interests ahead of human life," he said.
Trump will be speaking to mostly federal, state, and local law enforcement. King also said the president plans to talk to some of the family members of those who have been killed.