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 said 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.
“People don’t leave home on a lark. They’re not coming to Disney World,” said Sister Ann Kendrick.
“They’re human beings who want to live and they want their children to live. End of story,” Kendrick said.
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.
Pascual also works at the Hope CommUnity Center in Apopka, an organization dedicated to helping immigrants in Central Florida.