President Trump discusses gang violence at Bethpage forum

Posted: Updated:
BETHPAGE -

President Donald Trump was on Long Island Wednesday to lead a discussion on the MS-13 gang.

United States Rep. Peter King invited Trump to attend the roughly 90-minute forum at the Morrelly Homeland Security Center in Bethpage. Trump spoke directly to a room of about 250 people, including local and federal law enforcement, politicians and family members of some Long Islanders slain by MS-13 members.

Trump pledged to continue the war on the gang until every community is safe. He also defended his use of the term "animals" when referring to gang members and called on Congress to change current immigration laws.

"Democrats in Congress refuse to close these loopholes, including the disgraceful practice known as 'catch and release,'" Trump said.

WATCH THE ENTIRE FORUM: Part 1 | Part 2

Both Nassau and Suffolk's police commissioners then spoke, telling the president that Long Island police need federal help and federal dollars.

The parents of murdered Brentwood teens Kayla Cuevas and Nisa Mickens, whose September 2016 deaths were linked to MS-13, also addressed the president.

"You said the other day that these individuals are animals -- you're correct," said Evelyn Rodriguez, Cuevas' mother, who sat directly next to Trump. "No child should ever, ever have to suffer. As parents, we have to endure that pain, that numbness every day of our lives."

Trump vowed to make what he called radical changes to the nation's aid practices by withholding U.S. government assistance to countries that allow their citizens to enter the U.S. illegally. He did not specify to which countries that would pertain.

Trump was set to attend a fundraiser in New York City Wednesday evening. The 75-person dinner was expected to raise $5 million for the Republican National Committee and the president's re-election campaign.

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