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Shalam’s Personal Appeal For Immigration Reform

Let me take you back to 66 years ago when my family came to the U.S. from Egypt and I was allowed to remain here. I was the holder of a student visa.

Six years later, when I graduated from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, I was notified by the U.S. Department of Naturalization and immigration that I had to leave, since I had completed my studies. I had to return to Egypt.

Going back to Egypt was not an option as life had changed drastically since the overthrow of King Farouk, and General Nasser’s revolution. We were no longer were welcome in that country.

A family friend referred us to an immigration lawyer, who was able to introduce a private bill in Congress, which passed as an amendment to the 1956 Farm Bill, and my mother, my twin sister and I obtained resident status in the U.S.

Three years later, I founded Audiovox Corporation, now known as Voxx International, a Nasdaq-listed public company, which is close to achieving a turnover of $1 billion in annual sales, and employs over 2,000 worldwide.

I was lucky to be able to extend my stay in the U.S. and thanks to the countless opportunities, and the conductive climate for entrepreneurship and innovation, I was able to establish my company, and achieve our position in the consumer electronics industry.

Had I not been allowed to stay in the U.S., it is unlikely that Voxx, a 100 percent American-owned consumer electronics company, would exist today.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of an immigration policy that encourages and rewards open immigration of qualified and promising candidates and those who can make worthwhile contributions to our society, and continue to drive the innovation movement through their energy, knowledge and desire to succeed, and in the process, build great companies that employ thousands of people in America.

By stifling immigration, we turn away the brains and the talent that will fuel future generations of visionaries, and innovators, and we run the risk of becoming a stagnant economy with limited growth thus imperiling our position as a world leader in finance and commerce.

America’s success as a great and powerful country is the historical result of our diverse society, a society of immigrants fleeing oppression and religious discrimination, and seeking a chance to build a better future for themselves and their families.

We need to continue doing everything possible to encourage Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration bill and strengthen our economy with diversity, fresh new blood, new ideas and innovative thinking.

In closing, I want to salute [Consumer Electronics Association president/CEO] Gary Shapiro and CEA, an organization that is so dear to me, and which does so much to promote innovation, immigration, and maintaining a free and open market for our member companies, for our industry, for our children and grandchildren — I have eight of them — to continue building and promoting successful companies.

Editor’s Note: This blog was edited from a speech Voxx International founder and chairman John Shalam made when accepting the CEA Patriots Award on Tuesday, April 29, in Washington.