President Donald Trump’s mention of two Brentwood teenage girls allegedly killed by the notorious MS-13 gang brought their parents to tears during the State of the Union address, but also gave them comfort and a sense of pride, they said Wednesday.
“I did shed a tear after everyone sat down,” said Robert Mickens, whose 15-year-old daughter Nisa Mickens was slain along with her close friend Kayla Cuevas, 16.
“I was trying to absorb the memory,” he said. “There was a lot of great energy flowing throughout the room. I just wanted to take in the energy and love that was there.”
Mickens, his wife, Elizabeth Alvarado, and Kayla’s parents — Evelyn Rodriguez and Freddy Cuevas — attended the Tuesday night address inside the U.S. Capitol as guests of the president and first lady Melania Trump.
Trump, who referred to the teens as “precious girls,” said in his speech: “Tonight, everyone in this chamber is praying for you. 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.”
Kayla and Nisa were students at Brentwood High School in September 2016 when they were bludgeoned to death with bats and hacked with machetes by MS-13 gang members, authorities have said. Six alleged gang members have been indicted on federal charges in the slayings.
Earlier Tuesday, the teens’ parents met with the president in the Oval Office, where they spoke with him briefly and took photographs.
Rodriguez said Trump kissed her on her forehead.
“I felt his connection; that he felt my pain,” Rodriguez told WCBS-TV.
Mickens said his wife handed Trump a pin adorned with Nisa’s image.
“He looked at it and he said, ‘Oh, how beautiful she is,’ ” Mickens said.
In an interview after he arrived home late Wednesday afternoon, Mickens described a whirlwind Washington visit that included a White House tour, an offer to use the White House bowling alley and a dinner — chicken and vegetables — with Trump and the first lady, as well as some of the president’s children: Ivanka Trump, an adviser to the president; Eric Trump, an executive at the family’s company; and Tiffany Trump, a law student.
“Right before the State of the Union started . . . Ivanka actually sat right next to me,” Mickens said. “I turned my head and I looked, and she goes, ‘Hi Rob.’ . . . She really made us feel like she knew us. She asked us how we were feeling and everything.”
He said he understood that the president’s comments in his speech about Nisa and Kayla resonated so widely with so many people across the country.
“It’s something that everybody in America, if you have children, that’s the one thing that you fear,” Mickens said. “I don’t care how tough you are, how brave you are, that’s the one thing that every person fears — having to bury your children.”
He rejected the notion that Trump exploited the tragedy to advance his political agenda — emphasizing violence by MS-13 gang members, many of whom are in the country illegally, in order to garner support for his plans to overhaul immigration policies and build a Mexican border wall.
“Nobody uses my family. That’s something that I won’t allow,” Mickens said. “As far as his political gain, this is Donald Trump we’re talking about. He doesn’t need political gain.”
With Ellen Yan and Laura Figueroa Hernandez