When Jose Mas’ father emigrated from Cuba to the United States in 1959, he got his start working odd end jobs before opening a construction company that has grown to be the largest Hispanic-owned business in the United States.
But the opportunity to live out the American dream as his father did, Mas told “Power Players,” is being denied to the estimated 11 million immigrants living in the United States without legal documentation.
“When you look at some of the things that people do to cross the borders … they’re risking their lives day in and day out not for a handout but for an opportunity to build a life that’s better than what they can achieve where they are,” Mas said.
Mas, who is a U.S. citizen by birth, is a member of the Republican Party. But he disagrees with the GOP’s broad opposition to immigration reform.
“I’m fiscally conservative,” Mas said. “But when it comes to a lot of the social justice issues as a party, immigration is one of many things … that I think is negatively affecting the Republican Party not just here but everywhere.”
Now the CEO of MasTec Inc., the business his father began, Mas responded to the opposition argument that business owners like himself only want immigration reform in order to have access to the cheap labor of foreign workers, calling it “ridiculous.”
“I’m at a disadvantage to that small business that’s taking advantage of the system,” said Mas. “That one employer that’s out there who’s not paying his employees correctly … can go out and they can out price me any day of the week, so the people that are doing it right aren’t benefitting from the system.”
In addition to his hope that immigration reform would regulate business management, he argues that it would also aid the American taxpayer.
He went on to say that many of those living in the country, such as those working in construction and agriculture labor, without a legal immigration status want to pay into the system, but “we’re not allowing them.”
“Most of that work is being done by immigrants today,” Mas said. “So why not create a process where they are paying taxes which they want? They don’t want to be here hiding, having to cheat the government. Let them pay taxes let them pay into the system let them contribute into that system, and let them be part of our communities.”
To hear more of the interview with Mas, and the story of how his family’s business grew from humble beginnings to a Fortune 1000 company and leading member of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, check out this episode of “Power Players.”
ABC News’ Serena Marshall, Alexandra Dukakis, Tom Thornton, Dale West and Joe Biscotti contributed to this episode.