According to Jack O’Toole, the founder of a Dartmouth College-based company called FreshAir Sensor LLC, much of the product’s success is owed to Kwame Ohene-Adu, a Ghanaian immigrant. Ohene-Adu, came to the United States for college and earned two Dartmouth degrees in just five years: a bachelor’s degree in engineering sciences and a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. He then went on to design the circuit board that allows the FreshAir Sensor to alert individuals to unwanted marijuana or cigarette smoke in their vicinity. Thanks to Ohene-Adu’s engineering skills, O’Toole says the company is placing its products in hotels much sooner than expected.
Ohene-Adu was able to originally stay in the United States after graduation through a special visa that allows foreign students who hold or are pursuing degrees in STEM fields to work in here for 29 months. After this, he was lucky to win another visa, granted via lottery to high-skilled workers.
We invest money in these people as students, only to have immigration policy send them away.
But Ohene-Adu’s fellow students and colleagues have not been so lucky. One of his colleagues at the startup did not win the visa, nor did a roommate who was working for a consulting company. “It boils down to a game of chance,” Ohene-Adu says. He wishes that the United States could truly capitalize on high-skilled newcomers like himself, who are poised to make big economic contributions. Instead, he says, we invest money in these people as students, only to have immigration policy send them away. Even Ohene-Adu doesn’t know how long he’ll be allowed to remain in the United States, which means he may be taking his talents back to Ghana. FreshAir Sensor, meanwhile, may struggle to find the best engineers to keep growing.