June 14th, 2013
11:16 AM ET
1 year ago

Jeb Bush, arguing for immigration reform, says immigrants 'more fertile'

Washington (CNN) – Making an argument for overhauling the nation's immigration system Friday to a crowd of conservative activists, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush claimed immigrants were "more fertile" and thus a great benefit to American society.

His remark appeared to be an inarticulate reference to immigrants' fertility rates, which data show are higher than native-born Americans.

"Immigrants create far more businesses than native-born Americans over the last 20 years. Immigrants are more fertile, and they love families, and they have more intact families, and they bring a younger population. Immigrants create an engine of economic prosperity," Bush said at the annual Faith and Freedom conference in the nation's capital.

He prefaced his remarks with an analysis of America's demographic struggles, saying that the rate of Americans entering retirement couldn't be sustained by the current size of the workforce. Economists have long warned that government programs for seniors like Social Security and Medicare face long-term funding problems.

Last year, trustees projected Social Security could pay promised benefits in full through 2036, after which the program could only afford to pay 77% of them. Social Security has already begun paying out more in benefits than it takes in from workers' payroll taxes.

Bush argued Friday the problem lay in an imbalance between working Americans paying taxes and the number of older Americans – living longer – who have been promised government support in their retirement.

"We're going to have fewer workers taking care of a larger number of people the country has a social contract with to be able to allow them to retire with dignity and purpose," Bush said. "We cannot do that with the fertility rates that we have in our country. We're below break-even today."

Part of the solution, he said, was encouraging more legal immigration that would add people to the workforce, thereby creating more payroll tax revenue.

"The one way that we can rebuild the demographic pyramid is to fix a broken immigration system to allow for people to come and learn English and play by our rules, to embrace our values and to pursue their dreams in our country with a vengeance to create more opportunities for all of us," said Bush, a longtime proponent for comprehensive immigration reform.

"This is a conservative idea," he continued. "If we do this we will rebuild our country in a way that will allow us to grow. If we don't do it we will be in decline, since productivity of this country is dependent upon young people who are equipped to work hard."

Bush, unlike many Republicans, has backed a pathway to legal status for undocumented immigrants, provided they pay fines and learn English. Such measures have been staunchly opposed by conservatives, who say allowing people who came to the United States illegally to remain here amounts to amnesty.

Bush's arguments for immigration reform were met with near silence from the conservative crowd Friday, and following his speech the former Florida governor received a polite standing ovation. Comparatively, Rep. Michele Bachmann, who used parts of her speech to decry the bill backed by a bipartisan group of eight senators as "amnesty" for undocumented immigrants, received loud applause.

Bush, who is speculated to be considering a run for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, made his remarks the same week U.S. census data indicated rapid demographic changes, including showing for the first time that more non-Hispanic Whites died last year than were born.

The data also showed that Asians were the nation's fastest-growing demographic group, rising in population 2.9% last year. The Hispanic population grew by 2.2%, which the Census Bureau primarily attributed to a greater number of births than deaths.

In total, non-Hispanic Whites were the only racial group to have a negative rate of "natural increase" last year – meaning there were more deaths than births. Hispanics had 872,840 more births than deaths; African-Americans had 435,182; and Asians had 211,537.

CNN's Peter Hamby and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.

Here's a glimpse of how Twitter users reacted to Bush's comment:


Filed under: Immigration • Jeb Bush
soundoff (311 Responses)
  1. BCW

    Ignorance folks keep saying the immigrant mothers will be on welfare and have more children.
    Many come to this country to work and make a living; not to line up for welfare.
    Right now, many of them are working long hours in the fields to help feed the American people while having their children hand-picking blue berries to earn a few extra dollars to support their families.
    Please stop demonize hard-working non-citizens trying to raise a family here.

    June 14, 2013 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  2. Anonymous

    That's what generations of Americans being fed Monsanto food products will get you.

    June 14, 2013 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  3. evilroyslade

    Time to stop looking for Washington DC political leadership. They have become so smart and all knowing they don't need little voters, just 5 or 10 Corporate supporters and they are set for life. It's all our fault, we voted them in and won't get off our butts and vote them out. Repeal Citizen United and set term limits for senators and representatives.

    June 14, 2013 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  4. albus

    I think he meant to say immigrants (especially Hispanics) are controlled by the catholic church and do not use birth control as they should.

    June 14, 2013 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  5. Jimbob

    Jeb is trying to speak reason to insanity.

    The Republican party is too far gone to hear what he says.

    June 14, 2013 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  6. short-term

    When Bush says this: "Immigrants create far more businesses than native-born Americans over the last 20 years. Immigrants are more fertile, and they love families, and they have more intact families, and they bring a younger population. Immigrants create an engine of economic prosperity." ... It seems like he is only thinking about the economic prosperity of the next 40 years, and not considering a longer term effect.

    High birth rates are not a long term solution. That's why the rest of us native-born folks don't do it.

    June 14, 2013 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  7. Keith H

    Good ole CNN, big Repub-bashing headline, fine print tells some of the real story.

    June 14, 2013 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  8. anticomm

    make more anchor babies and you don't need to work, government will cover your expenses.

    June 14, 2013 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  9. NYVeteran

    Yes and they are going to make new Americans at a rate that angry white old men in the GOP tea party on Viagra cant keep up with. Soon the minority will be the majority and white people, who have a manifest destiny as laid out in the bible wont control the reigns of government even after racial gerrymandering. Whats an angry white make too do? Better go get some more guns from the NRA and start slaughtering children and keep protecting those white fetus'. The end is near! Wolf! Wolf! Good luck getting elected now Jebster. Your words belong on the FERTILIZER pile.

    June 14, 2013 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  10. Christopher Lubke

    What he is saying is very positive and valid.

    June 14, 2013 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  11. Laurie in Spokane

    Just what we need, more fertility, when the world's population is exploding as it is. Yes, immigrants generally have more children. They largely come from societies where the number of children one has enhances your worth and their religions promote more children. I thought GW was severely lacking in brain power; seems his brother isn't too far behind.

    June 14, 2013 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  12. Wake up People!

    Is he talking about all immigrants?? Because the ones around me ARE very fertile..... Each female has another baby every 9 -12 months....... And btw, they aren't Latino.....

    June 14, 2013 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  13. Stef

    How dare he pass off statistics as facts :)

    June 14, 2013 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  14. Sniffit

    Wow. The stupid just never runs out for these guys. It's like a bottomless cup of idiocy.

    OUTREACH!

    June 14, 2013 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  15. bruce t

    Id be more fertile too if I didn't have to pay for my babies. State hired studs put out better when they know it's their paid job.

    June 14, 2013 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  16. abmri60

    Immigrant are more fertile ?
    How about American teenage girls ??

    June 14, 2013 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  17. bob

    If you can't feed them, don't breed them...

    June 14, 2013 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  18. Steven

    I'm no fan of ANY Bush, but for Pete's sake, this is ridiculous. It's obvious he meant they simply have a higher birthrate. Republicans often let slip what's really in their minds, but this is not one of those instances. George W. was probably the worst president in memory, but I never felt that he was bigoted or prejudiced toward anyone (not to say he didn't play race and sexual-orientation cards when it suited him, however), and I don't think Jeb is either. There are plenty of reasons not to elect another Bush, but this slip of the tongue is not one of them.

    June 14, 2013 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  19. are122

    Republicans and democrats have used basically the same argument. However, what about the ones that find no work and start no business???? Any estimates on that number?

    June 14, 2013 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  20. Bookldy209

    This family never fails to embarass. There may be some truth to birth numbers being higher but nothing to do with fertility but rather planning, choice and even cultural and religious perspectives.

    June 14, 2013 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  21. sonny chapman

    He IS related to W. !!

    June 14, 2013 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  22. Los Angeles

    Hispanics are #1 in new businesses in America and studies have shown that immigrants pay more into medicare, social scecurity, etc... than they take out of these programs. Who is the #1 class when it comes to welfare in this country? Caucasians. Also the biggest and most uneducated welfare recepients in this country are from red states. Hmmm? Stop using Hispanics as the "boogeyman" and start rewarding them as the hardest working people in this country and the people best demonstrating "The American Dream". Hispanics and minorities will be the majority soon as this country moves more and more left.

    June 14, 2013 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  23. Armando

    Immigrants are more fertile – THAT'S THE PROBLEM. Take a look at the overpopulated swamps of poverty and corruption most illegals are fleeing from. Lack of birth control and family planning is one of the main (though not only) reasons "nations" like Guatemala, Mexico and Honduras are crumbling testaments to unchecked "fertility."

    June 14, 2013 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  24. Javier

    BCW

    Ignorance folks keep saying the immigrant mothers will be on welfare and have more children.
    Many come to this country to work and make a living; not to line up for welfare.
    Right now, many of them are working long hours in the fields to help feed the American people while having their children hand-picking blue berries to earn a few extra dollars to support their families.
    Please stop demonize hard-working non-citizens trying to raise a family here.

    --–
    Hopefully this is a contagious disease and those that solely vote for a living are shortly inflicted with it and stop thinking that the Government owes them more Obama Phones

    June 14, 2013 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  25. smartaz

    more fertile = more Catholic

    June 14, 2013 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
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