Kristina Bylko Hale

Kristina Bylko Hale

Ridgefield, CT

I would like the world to know how difficult it is to grow up in America without documents. I am writing here because I have no where else to turn. I live in fear day after day, still I am thankful for being an American. I tell myself I exist! I know I do because I feel the pain, the frustration and the anger. However, I am invisible. I go through my day constantly reminding myself that others have it worse, that others don’t live in the greatest country in the world. I tell myself I just need to snap out of it and make the best of what I do have. A great man, a leader said “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country” (JFK). I have lived by those words for most of my life, Never asking for help or a handout. I pay for my children’s medical bills and when times got tough, we did without. Ronald Reagan was president when I was brought to this country. I attended the neighborhood Elementary School from first grade through sixth. I remember how proud I was because it took me only a week to learn the Pledge of Allegiance. I learned to speak English within that a year. I won a writing contest in second grade because I wrote a book about a little star that was sad because she didn’t have friends and she missed her mom. I got a ribbon for that, which I treasured. I used to love Fridays when we had pizza for lunch at school. My favorite game was Connect Four. I was a straight A student. I loved Paula Abdul and Janet Jackson and of coarse Michael, I even had a red faux leather jacket. In fourth grade I was on the chess team. I was the only girl and felt a bit awkward being among so many boys. I was extremely enthusiastic about school and always did the extra credit work. I wanted to grow up and be a teacher. I was a leader in my school and because I always did the extra credit work, I was allowed to go and help out in the Kindergarten classrooms. I was also a hall monitor. Overall I guess you can say I was a geek and happy to be one. As the years passed I rebelled like many teenagers do. I also realized that there was something different about me. Something I could not tell anyone about, something which made me feel ashamed. Something I had no control over. Growing up in America is not easy. It is not easy because of all the choices available to us. This is not a complaint, having many choices is a wonderful thing but it is a bit harder to find ourselves as individuals when the choices are endless. As females we are lucky to grow up in a place where education is readily available. Where we can choose to be what ever we want to be. At least most females have that option. My mother constantly reminded me who I was NOT! She reminded me that I needed to learn to work any job that was available because we did not have the luxury to be picky. I hated hearing that.

People don’t understand my anger, my pain and my frustrations. I wake up every morning already exhausted due to a restless night. How can anyone sleep when tomorrow is filled with so much uncertainty. I remind myself that I am blessed to be in America. I get my two boys ready for school. I’m bombarded with immense sadness because I must step out into the front lines, out the door. I must watch every move I make, then fear sets in. I must watch the rear view mirror as I drive the short distance to school because today could be that day. Any day can be that day I make a mistake and get pulled over then I will be discovered. What will happen to me? What will happen to my boys? My boys are still so young; my baby is only three and eldest is nine and has so many questions. One day after watching a Disney World commercial they both asked “Mommy why can’t we fly somewhere like Disney World?”then my three year old asked “Am I a bad boy is that why we can’t go to Disney Word?” I hold the tears back, then he tells me that he promises he won’t ask me to buy him anything and says to me “I promise I will say yes mommy to everything, please please please” I must think and come up with something easy to say to him as I rush to the bathroom to hide the tears that I can no longer hold back. As I hide in the bathroom I remember a time I went to return an item to a local department store. I was asked for a driver licenses because I couldn’t find my receipt otherwise they couldn’t take the item which back. I didn’t have a drivers license, so they couldn’t accept the item. I just wanted to scream! Then I looked into the eyes of my boys and they couldn’t understand why I couldn’t just show them my drivers license. I said “OMG your silly mommy forgot it at home when I was cleaning out my purse” I am in my thirties and I am not able to live and raise my kids without depending on others. I have worked in medical offices assisting doctors during oral surgery and in management but only until those who employ me realize that I don’t actually have a social security number or drivers license. Then I walk away heart broken because I am not able to do something I love to do or provide security for my family. How can it be that I speak perfect English, a broken Spanish, attended WCSU where I was about to obtain a degree in English Literature but wasn’t able to because they needed my license in order to process my graduation application. I can’t vote, or get a drivers license or exist in this community. My mother is a US citizen as well as my sister and brother. My sons were both born in the US and I have never lived outside the US since I was six. However, I am forced to live in the shadows of society. I am a slave to those who can help me exist in this country for the sake of my boys. I am a captive! I am a bird living in a gilded cage, I am the woman living in the yellow wall paper! Trapped! I haven’t committed a crime. I did not choose to be born in another country. I did not choose to come to this country without the proper documents. When a parent commits a crime the child is not held responsible for that crime. Why AM I!Why must I pay for a crime my mother committed 30 years ago. I’ve tried to obtain legal status however, I have not been successful. I worked and saved money surviving on ramen noodles so I could pay lawyers just so they can say there is nothing to be done unless the president can pass a bill.I live in fear every minute of every day. Fear of not being able to stay with my children, fear of not being able to provide for my children in case anything happens their father. Fear of being sent back to a country which is alien to me. I am an American! I am part of the history of this country, I have volunteered at clinics, communities and during natural disasters and tragedies like Sandy Hook. I have been molded by the experiences of the life I’ve lived here in America. I grew up watching the Cosby Show, Who’s the Boss and Full House. My first movies at a theater starred Kirk Cameron, Corey Haim, Cory Feldman and of course River Phoenix. I cried with Elliot when E.T almost died, fell in love with Patrick Swayze in “Dirty Dancing” and was inspired by Christa McAuliffe, I spent weeks crying over the Challenger and the other astronauts that perished that Tuesday morning in January. I remember it as it was yesterday watching the whole thing happen as I sat on the second seat from the front on the third row from the door in my fifth grade class. As a young teenager I was going to “marry” Jon Bon Jovi or Leonardo DiCrapio when he first appeared on “Growing Pains”. I was part of the young girls who idolized Chad Allen, Ricky Schroder and Neil Patrick Harris as Doogie Howser MD.

As a child I had dreams, goals, ambitions but most of all I had plans, plans because I was confident that it would all work out. Every year little by little they have all been ripped away from me. Now they are ripped away from me before inception. I am no longer allowed to dream to hope or to believe. The faith I once had, that I will no longer have to live as a criminal is fading. I am holding on by a thread. Hoping President Obama can see the pain of those of us who want to be part of the solution, not the problem. I want to be able to contribute to the greatest country, I want to be IDLE no more. I don’t want to live in fear, I am not demanding to be given anything. I am asking to be acknowledged and considered to be officially accepted into the only country I have ever known. Just as African Americans needed to be accepted as equal Americans and Gay Americans need to have the right to legally have their union acknowledged , I am asking to be accepted so I can live as an equal and free from fear.

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