By Jonathan Ugbal
Celestine Omin, a Cross Riverian and software engineer with startup Andela was detained for over 3 hours by border officials at the JFK Airport in New York last week Saturday for not looking like an engineer reports the Cable News Network, CNN.
Omin, one of the panelists at the maiden Dialogue With Agba Jalingo Town Hall meeting had arrived New York on a work trip for Andela which is being supported by the Chan Zuckerberg Foundation, founded by Facebook owner, Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials said Omin did not look like an engineer and was given a blank sheet of paper to solve two difficult computer science equations; to balance a Binary search tree.
“What is an abstract class and why do you need it?” and “Write a function to check if a Binary Search Tree is balanced” were the questions asked.
But the CBP denies it ever treated Omin in such a way in a statement it issued to CNN stressing that CBP officials “strive to treat all people arriving in the country with dignity and respect,” and that it “does not administer written tests to verify a traveler’s purpose of travel.”
This is despite reports that it was a call between CBP and Andela co-founder, Christina Sass that eventually let Omin off the hook.
Meanwhile, Andela co-founder Jeremy Johnson had wrote about the incidence in a piece titled; “What an engineer looks like” where he posited that; “America’s lack of technical talent will be the greatest challenge facing the tech industry over the next decade. Without enough engineers, American companies are unable to grow and unable to create more jobs. The best engineering firms realize that top talent can be found anywhere in the world, which is why more and more are moving toward a distributed model of work to hire the best people, regardless of location.
“Celestine was not looking to immigrate to the United States. He’s a proud Nigerian whose life and young son are in Lagos. American companies are fortunate to have the opportunity to convince people like Celestine, of whom there are far too few in the world, to work with them from afar. If anything, they need much more of them if they intend to overcome the deficit in engineering talent.”
After his release, Celestine who worked with Konga as a software engineer tweeted about his experience which has being retweeted as at press time 8,695 times with 7,377 likes.
“I was just asked to balance a Binary Search Tree by JFK’s airport immigration. Welcome to America” Celestine tweeted.
I was just asked to balance a Binary Search Tree by JFK's airport immigration. Welcome to America.
— Celestine Omin (@cyberomin) February 26, 2017