U.S. immigration officials forced Celestine Omin, a Nigerian software engineer, to sit a written test to prove his qualifications.
After landing in New York’s JFK airport Sunday — following a 24-hour flight from Nigeria — 28-year-old Omin, a Nigerian software expert, claims that U.S. immigration officials forced him to take a written test because they weren’t convinced he was telling the truth about his skills, according to social networking site LinkedIn.
On arrival, Omin says Customs and Border Protection officers took him in to a room for further questioning. He told immigration officials that he worked for Andela, a tech start-up that links talented software developers on the African continent with potential employers in the United States.
The firm has offices in New York, San Francisco, Nairobi, and Lagos. In fact, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg made a stopover at Andela’s Lagos office during his visit to Nigeria last August.
Omin told LinkedIn that an immigration officer presented him with a piece of paper and a pen and ordered him to answer the following questions to prove his qualifications as a software engineer:
“Write a function to check if a Binary Search Tree is balanced.”
“What is an abstract class, and why do you need it?”
Omin spent about 10 minutes answering the questions and handed in his answers to the officer who declared that they were wrong.
Omin said the questions seemed like they had been googled by someone with no technical background, even though he admits that he had been too tired to even think. He then offered to discuss other computer-related concepts with the officer.
Omin says he was half expecting to be deported, so he was a surprised when the officer told him a little while later that he was free to go.
“Look, I am going to let you go, but you don’t look convincing to me,” the officer reportedly said. According to Omin, “I didn’t say anything back. I just walked out.”
Omin would later find that that border protection officers had phoned Andela to verify his story.
Reports say Omin had in fact been granted a short-term visa to work with First Access, a financial technology company in New York’s Manhattan district.
A spokesperson for Customs and Border Protection told the BBC, “U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers strive to treat all people arriving in the country with dignity and respect.
“While we are not at liberty to discuss individual cases due to the Privacy Act, our CBP officers enforce not only immigration and customs laws, but also more than 400 laws for 40 other agencies and have stopped thousands of violators of U.S. law.”
Omin’s experience in the hands of a U.S. border official comes in the wake of U.S. President Donald Trump’s call for the tightening of U.S. immigration requirements and a renewed clampdown on illegal immigrants.
Nigeria, however, is not one of the seven predominantly Muslim countries (3 of them in Africa) affected by Trump’s executive order barring travel and immigration.