Donald Trump’s temporary immigration ban and the accompanying security procedures for travelers from outside the U.S. have been making headlines since they were put in place.
I was just asked to balance a Binary Search Tree by JFK’s airport immigration. Welcome to America.
— Celestine Omin (@cyberomin) February 26, 2017
After a few minutes of grilling him about the job, the border agent escorted Omin into a small room and told him to sit down. Another hour passed before a different customs officer came in.
“Your visa says you are a software engineer. Is that correct?” the officer asked Omin in a tone the engineer described as accusatory. When Omin said it was right, the officer presented him with a piece of paper and a pen and told him to answer the questions.
- “Write a function to check if a Binary Search Tree is balanced.”
- “What is an abstract class, and why do you need it.”
According to Omin, the questions seemed opaque and could have multiple answers. While he is a skilled software engineer with more than seven years of experience, Omin explained that the questions looked to him like someone with no technical background googled something like, “Questions to ask a software engineer.”
“No one would tell me why I was being questioned. 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,” Omin told LinkedIn.
“That is when I thought I would never get into the United States.” He said.
As Omin sat, convinced he would be denied access into the United States, an official suddenly told him he was free to go. Without any further explanation, the official apparently said, “Look, I am going to let you go, but you don’t look convincing to me.”