• ‘We were like prisoners:' Apopka teen describes Texas detention center after leaving Guatemala

    By: Nancy Alvarez


    APOPKA, Fla. - Ruth Pascual was just 13 years old when she left Guatemala with her little sister to begin their journey to meet their parents, who had already left the country.

    In Spanish, she told Channel 9’s Nancy Alvarez how she and her sister were treated like animals for two months at a detention center in Texas. 

    Pascual and her sister were only allowed to call their mother once. 

    They had no access to books, education or even exercise. 

    “We were there like prisoners,” Pascual said.

    She was eventually reunited with her parents, who were in Florida. Pascual, now 16 and a junior at Wekiva High School, is working on her citizenship but said recent images of children locked away at detention centers takes her back. 

    The Trump administration in April directed prosecutors to pursue cases against all people suspected of crossing the border illegally as part of a “zero tolerance” immigration enforcement policy. Parents have been separated from their children as they face prosecution.

    Nearly 2,000 children were separated from their families over a six-week period in April and May, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

    On Wednesday, responding to mounting criticism and pressure from both parties, President Trump signed an executive order ending his administration’s policy of separating children from parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.

    Read: Trump's executive order to end migrant family separations

    Pascual also works at the Hope CommUnity Center in Apopka, an organization dedicated to helping immigrants in Central Florida. 

    © 2019 Cox Media Group.
    © 2019 Cox Media Group.

    “People don’t leave home on a lark. They’re not coming to Disney World,” said Sister Ann Kendrick.

    The center is waiting to see how the latest chapter of their struggle plays out. 

    “They’re human beings who want to live and they want their children to live. End of story,” Kendrick said. 

    WATCH: What you need to know about Trump's "Zero Tolerance" immigration policy

    Next Up: