BETHPAGE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — President Donald Trump on Wednesday returned to Long Island, where he addressed immigration and efforts to eliminate the notorious MS-13 gang.
MS-13 is believed to be responsible for at least 25 murders on Long Island in the last two years.
The president took part in a roundtable discussion Wednesday afternoon with federal and local law enforcement, elected officials and families of some of the violent gang’s victims.
Trump began his remarks calling MS-13 “a menace.”
“It’s a ruthless gang that has violated our borders and transformed once peaceful neighborhoods into blood-stained killing fields,” he said.
Last week, the president raised eyebrows when he used the word “animals” to describe some people who enter the country illegally, in response to a question about MS-13.
“You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are,” he said. “They’re not people. They’re animals.”
He later said the remarks were in reference to MS-13 gang members and the violence they have inflicted.
Trump doubled down during Wednesday’s meeting, saying, “they’re not people, these are animals.”
The White House also released a fact sheet Monday morning, titled, “WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIOLENT ANIMALS OF MS-13.”
In his push for better border security, the president was joined by local law enforcement officers who are on the front lines of fighting the notorious street gang. Some have even received death threats after dozens of arrests in island-wide crackdowns.
It was the second time that the president has traveled to the area to talk about MS-13.
Last July, he met with law enforcement officials and spoke about the beatings and machete attacks allegedly by the gang that killed Long Island teens Kayla Cuevas and Nisa Mickens. The girls’ families attended the State of the Union address in January, as well as Wednesday’s roundtable.
Mickens’ father, Robert, said “it’s an ongoing struggle” and later added “we cannot have children kill children anymore.”
“It’s very sad that all these loopholes these past couple of years – decades – that have been allowing these criminals to come into our country, into our towns, into our states and do whatever they want,” he said.
“The American Dream is still there,” he continued. “But if you’re going to come here with acts of violence, you can stay in your own country with that because we don’t need it here anymore.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions also visited Long Island last year to address the issue.
Since then, MS-13 members have reportedly turned their attention to law enforcement. Last month, police in Nassau County say they have received multiple gang-related death threats against its officers.
“We need more resources, we need more training, we need more uniformed personnel and we need it now,” said Nassau County PBA President James McDermott. “You’ve got families of police officers worrying about their loved one going to work and not coming home, because somebody’s targeting them.”
Security was tight Wednesday as demonstrators set up outside — both in support of the president and others protesting his visit, Burrell reported.
Protesters said he is using the MS-13 problem to punish other immigrants.
“He just wants to smear us all with the same brush, and it’s just not like that,” Siomara Umana, of East Meadow, told Burrell. “We are here as honest working people.”
Supporters, however, agreed with his approach so far.
“He’s doing a great job, he’s been doing a great job,” Mark Kaiser, of North Babylon, said. “He’s handling it very appropriately and he’s doing the right thing.”
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)