NEW YORK (FOX5NY.COM) - During his State of the Union address, President Donald Trump honored the parents of victims of MS-13 gang violence. Among his guests was Evelyn Rodriguez, who said that protecting kids is more important than any political agenda. her daughter, Kayla Cuevas, 16, was brutally murdered by members of the vicious gang in 2016.
"Everyone in America is grieving for you," Trump said, looking up at Rodriguez and others in the chamber.
"When he said that, there were no words," Rodriguez said. She first met the president when he came to Long Island over the summer to address the issue of gang violence.
"We spoke very briefly but he said, 'We'll talk soon,'" she said. "I guess 'soon' was this week."
A call last week from a White House official extended the invitation. All of her expenses were paid. She had a 15-minute meeting with the president. Rodriguez said the meeting was positive and that Trump is sincere and caring.
Trump spent more than two minutes of his speech recognizing the girls' families. He called on Congress to finally close the loopholes that allow criminals to get through.
"It's painful to lose a child to gang violence," she said. "And for another mother or father to go through this? They shouldn't."
While immigration advocates accuse the president of using the murders to push his platform, Rodriguez said she disagrees.
"I'm not there to say who should be here, who shouldn't be here—that's not my role," she said. "My role is to make sure that our kids are safe."
Six members of MS-13 have been charged with the murders.
Rodriguez is proud of her work and won't stop fighting.
"I can feel her presence," she said through tears. "And I can hear her say, 'Mom, keep up the fight.'"