August 18, 2015 by Debra Gittler

ISN’T IT IRONIC…

From what I remember, so far this year, ConTextos’ staff has completed the following travel (myself excluded… it’s easier to count when I stand still…):

Two have gone to Bogota.

One to Costa Rica.
Two to LA and Chicago.
One to San Francisco.
One to Vermont via NYC.
One to Andover via Boston.
One to Mexico City.

And I’m sure I’m missing something…

Each of these trips represents international travel from El Salvador in to a country that might frown upon Salvadoran visitors. Let’s be honest, Salvadorans are known as flight risks, desperately seeking the opportunity to leave their country in search of something better.

And every place the staff has visited this year, represents “something better.”

While the memory of 70,000 child refugees at the US-Mexico border is beginning to fade in the public psyche, policy is still staunchly focused on making sure not to forget that we must secure our border.

Despite what Donald Trump says it’s not rapists and murders leaving El Salvador—at least not the vast majority. It’s peaceful, afraid, hopeful, desperate children and their families seeking refuge from their homeland, which is infested with violence, corruption and impunity.

With all this travel, we’ve had our share of visa woes. Fear that a visa wouldn’t be issued. Visas issued just on time. Visas issued a bit late. Scrambling for the proper paperwork to get a visa. Disappointment to see how demeaning the process of getting a visa can be. Awe to realize that working for ConTextos can put you in the fast-line to getting a visa. Awe to realize that we know the right people to write letters of recommendation to ensure that we get a visa. Awe to realize that travel really is a gateway to opportunity. And awe to realize that it has always, always, always worked out.

And though I say it jokingly, I have teased my staff over and again that when they leave for visits to beautiful, safe, “fair” places, they must promise to return. I’m not really worried, but there’s always a slight fear: once someone spends time in the USA, enjoys the university experience, walks freely at night through a city, rides a bike in a park… once you experience the freedom of simple things without fear, why wouldn’t you consider staying beyond the visa? Or making plans to migrate?

I know that no one in ConTextos would ever do such a thing. ConTextos’ staff is deeply moral, ethical and honest people (even if they like to party.) Partially, because I know that if/when they ever really need help—if/when they are truly in danger—we can make sure they get to where they need to be legally and safely. If/when they are ready for something new, they will do it with dignity and through proper channels.

So isn’t it ironic that we have finally had a problem at the border?!

For the first time, a ConTextos’ staff member has been denied entry.

But it’s not a Salvadoran. Not even someone directly departing El Salvador.

After visiting family, Lindsay Rodgers, our director of educational programming, was leaving her homeland of Canada (she’s our only non-Salvo on staff, besides yours truly) on the way back into the USA during a road trip with her beau where they would return to their new home together in Oakland, California. Lindsay was to be our first employee outside of El Salvador (besides yours truly) and use her location in the Bay Area to bolster our relationships around e-readers and digital content.

Me and Lindsay visiting a school in the mountains.

Of all the ConTextos’ staff to be denied entry into the USA, Ms. Lindsay Rodgers was told at the Canadian border to the US that she is considered a risk and wouldn’t be allowed in. She will have to wait six-months to reapply for a visa.

I’m heartbroken for Linds. Heartbroken to see her plans thwarted. But I’m laughing like a banshee on the inside. I mean… isn’t this just the most unexpected turn? She’s staying on as our Director of Educational Programming. She’ll still complete the travel to Mexico and El Salvador. But of all the staff members, she’ll be the only one to-date denied a visa to the USA.

There’s a saying… want to make G-d laugh? Make plans.

G-d is giggling.

So am I.

So here’s to you, Ms. Lindsay Rodgers! For bringing another First to ConTextos!

Debra Gittler
Founder and Executive Director

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