April 6th, 2014
04:08 PM ET
4 months ago

Jeb Bush: Immigration is 'not a felony' but 'an act of love'

(CNN) - Jeb Bush said the debate over immigration reform needs to move past derisive rhetoric describing illegal immigrants.

The former Florida governor said in an interview Sunday in College Station, Texas, that people who come to the United States illegally are often looking for opportunities to provide for their families that are not available in their home countries.

"Yes, they broke the law, but it's not a felony. It's an act of love, it's an act of commitment to your family," Bush told Fox News host Shannon Bream at town hall event at the George Bush Presidential Library Center.

"I honestly think that is a different kind of crime, that there should be a price paid, but it shouldn't rile people up that people are actually coming to this country to provide for their families," he said.

"I think we need to kind of get beyond the harsh political rhetoric to a better place."

Bush acknowledged that his comments would be recorded. "So be it," he said before discussing immigration reform, an area where he splits from many in the Republican Party in lobbying for a comprehensive overhaul.

Bush also talked at length about education reform, another issue on which he is at odds with many in the GOP. In his two terms as governor of Florida, Bush overhauled the state's education system, introducing a school voucher program and banning the use of race as a factor in university admissions.

"The system we have today with over 13,000 government-run, politicized, unionized monopolies is probably not the best governance model for 2014 and going forward," he said.

2016 decision by year's end

Bush is considering launching a campaign for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016, ramping up his political activity in recent weeks.

At the town hall, Bush reiterated that he would make a decision on a White House bid by the end of the year, a timeline he's repeated as speculation swirls that he might be a viable option for the Republican Party.

The politics, he said, are "pretty crazy right now," suggesting too much time is spent strategizing how a candidate can "win the Muscatine pork roast straw poll."

Bush said there will be two overriding factors in his decision: "Can a candidate run with a hopeful, optimistic message? In my case, that means can one do it joyfully without being tied to all the convention of the here and now?"

He also said that family considerations would play a significant role in his ultimate decision.

Pivoting to a wider assessment of Republican politics, Bush said the GOP must choose candidates who can beat Democrats in general elections.

"I think maybe the answer is that we need to elect candidates that have a vision that is bigger and broader and candidates that are organized around winning the election, not making a point," he said.

Another name often included on a list of potential Republican candidates is Chris Christie. The New Jersey governor, who is also still weighing whether he'll jump into the race, put Bush on the top of his list of prospective 2016 hopefuls in an interview last month.

Asked about his fellow Republican’s praise, Bush called Christie "the real deal" and a "spectacular guy."

Bush 41 marks 25 years

Sunday's town hall was the closing event in a weekend of commemorations marking former President George H. W. Bush's 25th anniversary of his presidency. Jeb Bush is his second-oldest son following his brother, former President George W. Bush.

The town hall event was closed to the media, but portions of Bush's interview with Bream was televised on Fox News.

The weekend of commemorations also marks a resurgence of sorts for Bush 41, who was hospitalized in 2012 at a facility in Houston where he spent several weeks receiving treatment for bronchitis, a bacterial infection and a persistent cough.

The President and his wife, Barbara, attended most of the events this weekend, including the interview with Jeb Bush, according to a Bush spokesperson.

The spokesperson also said roughly 800 people attended events this weekend. Guest included many close advisers to the Bush family, including former Defense Secretary Bob Gates, former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

CNN Senior Producer Kevin Bohn contributed to this report.


Filed under: 2016 • Immigration • Jeb Bush • Republican Party
soundoff (617 Responses)
  1. Lee

    We will lose this fight until we bring up the point that Illegal immigration is a threat to our National Security. We really don't know who they are, even though they claim that they need and want work. What a great ploy!

    April 6, 2014 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  2. Bill Hartzell

    What these illegals need to do is not come to our country illegally- if they don't like the govt. they have in their own country they should overthrow their own govt. and take their country back and then make it the way they want it.

    April 6, 2014 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  3. theoneandonly

    so based on bush's statement, criminals who steal should should be exonerated. majority of them steal because they can't afford to buy the items for themselves or their families. criminals who commit welfare and food stamp fraud should be exonerated because they did so to feed themselves and their families even if they make a lot of money. etc etc etc.

    April 6, 2014 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  4. SeattleReign

    Okay, Anglos. You don't want them here? STOP HIRING THEM for cheap labor, you morons!!!! When the job market was at it worst, the illegals stopped coming. Duh!

    April 6, 2014 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  5. BostonFred

    I am a very analytical person so let’s break the problem down...

    We have too many workers competing for too few jobs. Everyone agree with that?
    Good.

    Demand creates jobs not wishful thinking. Demand comes from people with money.
    People have money from working.

    Everyone with me so far? It's all about jobs.

    Now we can't force people to buy by loaning them money as that just creates a bigger
    debt problem long term.

    So lets go back to the only variable left in the equation... we have too many
    workers.

    Why do we have too many workers? Is everyone aware that we import well over 1
    million foreign workers a year to take jobs in the US through legal immigration?
    Counting family reunification and special work visas like the H-1B, L-1 etc. we have
    been bringing in about 1.8 million a year.

    Now it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure this out so follow along...

    We have too many workers chasing too few jobs but we are still importing – through
    legal immigration about 1.8 million people a year.

    Different studies have shown that over 75% of the 'new' jobs created during the
    recovery from the 2008 crash have gone to immigrant labor.

    Hummmm – now how could we materially affect the unemployment rate for Americans?
    Anyone have any ideas?

    This is something even a politician could understand...

    We can take a huge cut out of the unemployment problem by severely reducing legal
    immigration.

    Considering the euphoria in DC when the jobs figures show an extra 50,000 jobs
    'created' a month – what will they do when we add 150,000 a month just by calling
    for a legal immigration timeout!

    Everyone with me so far? Now once you start getting a couple hundred thousand
    Americans off assistance and working each month they will have spending money.

    And does anyone remember what drives job creation? Demand!

    Once we shut down immigration and start letting Americans get back to work we will
    create a virtuous cycle of demand and that will create more jobs.

    Now let’s continue since we can help out even more Americans.

    We have about 12 million Americans who have low skills and want but can't find work
    in this economy. Shutting down legal immigration until we have full employment will
    help them too but there's an even quicker way.

    Most estimates are that we have over 8 million illegal aliens working in non-farm
    service jobs that require low skills. It's probably quite a bit more than that but
    let’s go with the 8 million number since that is what most agree on.

    Let's see... 8 million low skilled illegal workers and 12 million similarly skilled
    Americans out of work.

    Now how could we get those 12 million Americans back working?

    Come on... even a politician can figure this one out.

    How about if we switch out illegal aliens for American workers? We could get 75% of
    the low skilled Americans who are out of work back working (and creating demand by
    having money to spend).

    Now what would it take to do that? Too bad there isn't a switch we could throw that
    would change out all the illegal aliens for American workers.

    You may be surprised but we do have that magic switch – it's called "E-Verify". A
    free and incredibly quick online system that verifies employment status (legal
    worker) in seconds.

    Many large companies use it voluntarily. But most small companies where most
    illegals work do not use it and are not required to use it.

    If we made a law that required employers to use E-Verify on all their workers and do
    it quickly – say within a month what would be the effect?

    Inside the first few days companies would need tons of legal low skilled workers.
    Within that month we could move 75% of the long terms low skilled unemployed back to
    work and off assistance.

    So in the first year we could move about 10 million Americans back to work.

    Instead of supporting people through various benefits they could be switched to
    taxpayers and dramatically improve our debt problem as well.

    So if this is so simple why hasn't it been done? Why have we maintained the highest
    immigration rates in our nations history while we are in the middle of a jobs
    depression?

    The answer is simple – companies like having a labor surplus. They love it when
    they have 10 or 20 people begging for every opening because they can pay people
    less.

    The cost of labor follows the law of supply and demand. The more workers willing to
    do a job the lower it costs.

    The massive labor oversupply has caused wages of all workers to be stagnant and not
    even keep up with inflation.

    So lets connect the dots... the companies want cheaper and cheaper labor... they pay
    off politicians... the politicians keep the immigration rate high... Americans
    suffer.

    Both political parties are complicit in this as they both suck at the teat of big
    business and their paid lobbyists.

    Now for those who have been following along the latest amnesty bill do you know that
    in addition to amnesty for some 11-30 million illegal aliens it doubles legal
    immigration and triples special work visas? And it doesn't require E-Verify to ever
    be used for existing workers (illegal aliens) and doesn't phase it in for 5 years.
    This will result in a labor oversupply and resulting wage suppression forever. And
    with no effective enforcement measures the next batch of illegal aliens will come in
    and demand their own amnesty.

    Some of you may be shaking your head and thinking 'why would they do that'.
    The answer is simple and sad... politicians from both sides of the aisle don't care
    about you, the middle class in America, our countries debt problem or the health and
    strength of our nation. All they care about is getting their next payoff from big
    business to help drive down the middle class to serfdom.

    If any of you really care about the direction the country is heading join NumbersUSA
    and fight for lower immigration levels and no more amnesties.

    Politicians could fix the unemployment and debt problem in a month but they would
    rather take payoffs from big businesses than help American citizens. Remember that
    when you vote for these anti-Americans in the next election.

    April 6, 2014 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  6. Art

    When taking the oath of office, the president swears to uphold the laws of this country. It doesn't say that he can pick and choose which laws to uphold.

    April 6, 2014 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  7. Mr Bobo

    Bush is considering launching a campaign for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016.

    Jeb, don't bother, nobody with the last name Bush will ever occupy the White House in the 21 century.

    April 6, 2014 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  8. ready

    i like how the bushs enjoy 180ing their positions

    April 6, 2014 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  9. PtBarnumBoy

    What part of illegal is so hard to understand. By Jeb's logic we may as well not have laws or a border. I understand why people want to come here to live but surely there must be some law and order to the process.

    April 6, 2014 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  10. puddintane

    so everyone who feels like breaking the law just go ahead, its for peace and love

    April 6, 2014 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  11. Walter

    I'd like to move into HIS house and see if he still felt like it wasn't a felony and was just an "act of love."

    April 6, 2014 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  12. Kathy Frazier

    I agree with you. I am a moderate conservative from California and was raised with illegal immigrants in my community my entire life. These are kind and loving people who simply want to help their families. I hope you will run in 2016 and try to set the record straight on this matter. The time has come to stop viewing these folks as criminals. Let them become citizens and move on! They contribute to our society.

    April 6, 2014 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  13. Willie Pfoof

    @Jackola
    It is not the immigrant's fault that they are here. It is our fault for not guarding our border. Immigrants didn't break any laws entering the USA because there are no laws against immigrating from their countries.

    What? 1) Your EMIGRATE FROM a country. (2) Other countries IMMIGRATION (or EMIGRATION) laws have no bearing on OUR immigration laws. (3) Illegal immigration is illegal IN the country you ILLEGALLY "immigrate" to. (4) If is OUR fault they broke OUR law? We tied them up, threw them in the back of a truck, under the lettuce, and FORCED them to come here? (5) The one thing you elude to, protecting our borders, may be the ONLY thing you mention that makes any sense.

    April 6, 2014 09:14 pm at 9:14 pm |
  14. Nero

    Its' an "Act of Greed" for the oligarchs, like this jerk. Where is your love for actual Americans who are out of work? What is wrong with America to even be listening to this guy?

    April 6, 2014 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  15. CLMartinez

    Most " illegals" do not receive hand outs............they work their butt off to be able to feed their family. The few that drive and receive benefits are more than likely under visa status.............imagine to leave your family, your language, your customs, your holidays.............and go to a land where you live in cramped quarters and are lonely beyond imagination, just to make those few dollars to keep your family happy. And then another word I have for those who so hate those illegals.......the next time you go to Walmart or your beloved grocery store, guess who picked your tomatoes and oranges and apples and cabbages, guess again..............so while we cook our great holiday meals and thank God for all our blessings, lets thank the illegals that picked this food for us....................just saying

    April 6, 2014 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  16. Margaret

    When New York was settled by the Dutch it was to make money in the fur trade. There were all kinds of languages spoken including French, English, Spanish, and many African dialects due to the slave trade.

    April 6, 2014 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  17. BB

    Let love thrive and spread. Sack all the border control guards and open up the borders so the whole world can love the US. Thanks Jeb with your bright ideas!

    April 6, 2014 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  18. US Border Patrol

    Why stop there Jeb?
    You should make us all take in 1 dirt poor, illiterate in their own language family from our 3rd world neighbors to the south. Provide them room and board, and while they're sharing our home, they can teach us their language and all of their wonderful customs.
    Yeah, I've been wanting to do away with my way of life for a long time now.
    Good job Jeb!

    (good thing a Bush will never see the inside of the White House again!)

    April 6, 2014 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  19. Sandvichmancer

    Talk is cheap, let's see him throw support behind overhaul and call out Boehner.

    April 6, 2014 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  20. woodie

    American's are very gullible.

    April 6, 2014 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  21. debg

    Yes, Mexicans work hard, but they cost this country dearly. The illiteracy level among the parents and their children, and the cost that that is incurred on their half is by no means repaid by the few who actually pay taxes. Let's see it costs us $7k per child to educate, yet only 45 per cent actually graduate, the amount of food stamps that is paid to the families and their children who too continue with benefits programs, the health care and everything totaled are overwhelming. To add insult to injury, we're now on the race to the bottom due to Hispanic illegals because they are not assimilating to the American culture or language. We need to reinforce illegal is illegal and send the bill to the Bushes for what it is costing this country!

    April 6, 2014 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  22. Brian Bauer

    Ah. A Republican joins the ranks of those who wish to sell out their countrymen in order to secure some bonus voters.

    One fact everyone needs to come to terms with is this: Immigration reform isn't about what is best for America. It is about what is best for political parties. 12 million bonus voters is an appetizing prospect for politicians. Ted Kennedy's immigration reform in the late 70s was the same way. It wasn't what was best for the citizens, but what would keep one's party in power.

    Americans need to de-polarize politically. We need to wake up and realize when people are trying to sell us something that isn't in our best interest. I would love to help out the world and increase the standard of living for all people...but I am not willing to sell out my countrymen to do so. America is a great place and we need people who will assimilate into our society. Retaining culture is fine, but we need immigrants that will devote themselves to the US, not their home country.

    April 6, 2014 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  23. William Miller

    So we're going to end up with Bush vs. Clinton, the rematch made in hell. Might as well broadcast it on Pay-Per-View.

    April 6, 2014 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  24. Craig

    Well, he's got two serious problems already. Three actually.

    First, dealing with his comments herein, he's not going to make any friends inside the GOP or the TP suggesting that just maybe people who come here illegally might actually be human beings and deserve some sort of humane treatment and compassion.

    Second, he's from Florida, which isn't necessarily a poster child for great governance right now. Stand your Ground and illegal voter purges aren't too impressive, even if he wasn't directly involved in the latter.

    Third, sorry to say, but we've tried two Bushes, and as the song says..."we won't get fooled again." Candidly, that last two didn't work out all that well. One said "no new taxes" and then proceeded otherwise. The other said "no taxes for the rich" and "we don't need no regulation on banks" and that didn't work out too well either. Sorry, Jeb, but...well...yeah. Not going there again.

    April 6, 2014 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  25. twalk

    people wake up We the People have been Bushwacked enough! Don't let any other Bush, Bushwack us again.

    April 6, 2014 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
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