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Software Engineer Detained At NY Airport And Asked To Give A Test To Prove His Profession

Ever since American President Donald Trump imposed the much-criticised travel ban on seven nations, a large number of people have been affected, including not just the people from the banned nations, but from all over the world. The most recent victim of the policy is an IT professional from Nigeria, a nation not included in the banned list.

Celestine Omin, a 28-year-old Software engineer from Nigeria was detained at the John F. Kennedy (JFK) International Airport in New York on Sunday. To allow entry, he was asked to give a test to prove that he was indeed a Software engineer.


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Omin works for ‘Andela’, a tech startup that connects African developers with US based employees. He was visiting New York under a short-term visa to develop a JavaScript application for emerging markets for another startup named ‘First Access’.
I was just asked to balance a Binary Search Tree by JFK's airport immigration. Welcome to America.

Omin was asked several questions by a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer in an accusatory tone. He was then given a pen and paper to answer questions related to his field of work. Some of the questions were…

  • Write a function to check if a Binary Search Tree is balanced.
  • What is an abstract class, and why do you need it?

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Having an experience of over seven years in the industry, Omin said that the questions seem opaque and could have multiple answers. He also mentioned that most of the questions seemed like they have Googled by a person with no technical background.

Getting off a long flight, Omin said that he was too tired to answer. The officials didn’t even tell him why they were behaving this way to him.


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“EVERY SINGLE TIME I ASKED (THE OFFICIAL) WHY HE WAS ASKING ME THESE QUESTIONS, HE HUSHED ME … I WASN’T PREPARED FOR THIS. IF I HAD KNOWN THIS WAS HAPPENING BEFOREHAND, I WOULD HAVE TRIED TO PREPARE.”

After giving a ridiculous test, Omin was informed that his answers were incorrect. However, after contacting his employer, Andela, they told him that he is free to leave. Jeremy Johnson, CEO of Andela, said,


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“CELESTINE WAS THE FIRST SOFTWARE ENGINEER AT ONE OF THE MOST VISIBLE E-COMMERCE SITES IN AFRICA AND IS EXACTLY THE KIND OF PERSON WE WANT COMING TO AMERICA AND SHARING HIS SKILLS.”

Condemning the exercise by the Customs and Border Protection department, several people gave their reactions on Twitter.

1. Exactly!

@cyberomin sorry about your experience. I guess those guys were just doing their jobs; they could have done it in a more respectful manner

2. Disgraceful indeed


3. Let’s hope he does

I was just asked to balance a Binary Search Tree by JFK's airport immigration. Welcome to America.
@cyberomin I'm sorry you had to endure this ridiculousness. I hope the rest of your stay is enjoyable.
For a country that was built on the hard work and labour of millions of immigrants and gave people a chance to pursue their dreams, America seems to be getting away from the very principles on which it was created.

News Source: Linkedin

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