April 6th, 2014
04:08 PM ET
5 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. Ron

    I disagree with Bush on many things. But on this, he is right-on. If you have lived on a farm in Mexico, working from dawn to night, supporting your family, and then because of NAFTA, you can no longer make it for your family, as an act of love, you do whatever you can to buy shoes for your little girl and put food on her table. The facts are that since NAFTA, hundreds of thousands of farmers have been forced off their land. This is the fault of their government and ours, both of which promised prosperity, but benefited the rich instead. Ask yourself this question: if you had no other way to support your family, would you leave your community, and travel hundreds of treacherous miles, and risk your life, (and break a law), would you? If you are worth anything at all, yes you would.

    April 6, 2014 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  2. UnimatrixZero

    Quote from Khan- "is there anything you would not do for your family?"

    April 6, 2014 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  3. Alan

    Therefore, immediately approve all those that have applied legally and went through the background, financial and health checks.

    Then we can talk about illegals.

    April 6, 2014 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  4. Anja

    Have some mercy for American citizens !

    April 6, 2014 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  5. Flamengo1265

    Why even have laws regarding immigration then? Everybody come. What could possibly go wrong?

    April 6, 2014 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  6. Ron

    I guess that robbing a bank or gas station to feed one's family is similarly not a felony?

    April 6, 2014 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  7. Matt West

    Yup, immigration is an act of love. That's why I spent thousands of dollars gaining the necessary visa's, completing the necessary medical exams, completing the mandatory interviews, and everything else that was required BY LAW for me to marry my wife – and I came from Britain. Yes, it may be an act of love, but there is a legal way for people to do it, just like I did. Oh, and I have spent 12 years on Active Duty to thank the country that allowed me to live here. I guess I should have jumped the fence and claimed "it was an act of love".

    April 6, 2014 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  8. Robert Constant

    This is Act I of Jeb Bush's move for the Republican Nomination. The question is will it fly South of the Potomac?

    April 6, 2014 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  9. Anonymous

    All I will say about this TV ad is ...I can see Bush is for a one world order just in what he is saying ..
    Beware of this Bush... He is just like the rest of this family.and we know what happen with them in power..

    We the people can see right through you Jed Bush.
    Peace Old Hippie

    April 6, 2014 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  10. Ruben R. (TX)

    So now my question, in response to his answer, is, how would you classify the offering of affordable health care to Americans with no bar to preexisting conditions? Does he again break away from the GOP? It would be hard to find one compassionate and the other not.

    I'm not for legalizing everyone that comes over, but I understand his comments. Working hard and sacrificing for your family to provide a better life for them is the cornerstone of being a parent. However, showing your kids how to respect the law and the rules of your neighbors should fit in there somewhere too. Tough choices. My heart goes out to them but they must take action in their own country to be the change they want to see; either that or apply and wait in line the proper way. Sorry, Amigos.

    April 6, 2014 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  11. manhandler1

    "Portions of the interview were televised on Fox News" I'm guessing it wasn't the portion about stopping the derisive rhetoric. Because that part is all that Fox News is about.
    Supervised in a manufacturing company in Central California for years. I always found that generally, the hardest working employees were the Mexican employees. Driving through the Central valley you see many workers picking fruit and vegetables...bent over for hours at a time in the hot sun. Most other American workers wouldn't last a day.

    April 6, 2014 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  12. bp

    The Party of Hate and Science Denial no longer has any place for Jeb Bush.

    April 6, 2014 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  13. smde

    Most illegals obtain fake ID and seek higher paying jobs – . They obtain these fake ID's from hardened criminals and end up paying a lot of money for the ID's – They are desperate to keep their jobs – in order to pay – and that is the problem – They are supporting the largest organized crime ring in American history and Jeb bush is a clod.

    April 6, 2014 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  14. bob

    It's a certain political death sentence in the republican party if you are for the, the uninsured getting healthcare, raise the minimum wage, equal pay for women, extended benefits to those who lost their job from the GOP/ Bush policies that tanked the economy, and most important anything to do with immigration.

    April 6, 2014 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  15. rogue351

    Jeb Bush implying compassion to the illegal aliens ? Watch how fast this idea vaporizes if he ever gets elected. The only reason big cooperate republicans are going to get on board with this plan is if they do not have to pay minimum wage have any care for the work conditions or hours worked. The only way the GOP would vote for this is if it makes their money people more money. Again it is not a matter of right and wrong human rights issues it is about how much it is going to cost. For a first world nation that is among the richest nations how can we consider not doing the right thing. How this falls in direct line with the religious right and the 2nd amendment shoot first and let god sort them out mentality is just nuts.

    April 6, 2014 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  16. John

    What an absolute load of drivel that illegal immigration is an "act of love" and not a felony.

    A) What about the thousands if not tens of thousands of illegal immigrants who are felons/criminals in their own country and who come here and commit myriad crimes? Is it an "act of love" by them to come here?

    B) I suppose that the 5 illegal immigrants who gang raped a local woman here, that was "an act of love" on their part?

    C) Where exactly does this slippery slope stop in terms of people arbitrarily deciding which laws actually get enforced and which ones don't?

    D) I wonder if illegals, hoping to provide for their family broke into Jeb Bush's vacation home when he and his family were away, and lived there, eating the food, using the house, trespassing etc......when Jeb showed up at his vacation home would he not call the police because he was witnessing "an act of love"?

    E) Let's forget this nonsense that people are calling for "immigration reform". The U.S. allows MORE LEGAL immigration than EVERY OTHER WESTERN NATION COMBINED. There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with our actual immigration policy, AND in fact these people clamoring for "immigration reform" are not seeking to change anything in our policy as relates to Legal immigration. What they are really seeking is "Illegal Immigrant Path to Citizenship" legislation. Let's call it what it actually is.

    April 6, 2014 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  17. Kerry O'Brien

    So why – in every article I read – is Chris Christie always "weighing" a run for the Presidency?

    April 6, 2014 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  18. rogue351

    Two is more than enough elected presidents named Bush. And the GOP is worried about Hillary, being "another Clinton" in the White House. LOL

    April 6, 2014 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  19. rogue351

    His smirk, over confidence, deception, paint by numbers. Either way it is creepy.

    April 6, 2014 10:00 pm at 10:00 pm |
  20. blakenaustin

    Good reason why Bush should not be a viable GOP presidential candidate. He is a RINO, not significantly different than a Democrat. He clearly does not value to rule of law. Illegal immigration hurts legal Americans by impacting job availability, by tapping into federal resources that drive up taxes, by holding the rule of law up to public disdain, and lowering the percentage of Americans that speak English and value American culture.

    April 6, 2014 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  21. DAVIDINTEL

    He must be running, he is trying to get votes already by the sound of this!

    April 6, 2014 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  22. Loosun

    Among all those illegal immigrants with "loving" intentions for their family, there are millions of illegal criminals with violent, psychiatric histories who end up draining our resources and causing havoc in our communities. Our cities, schools, social service, local and state agencies are overwhelmed. The US will be burdened for many years. They continue to flood our communities and it is not fiscally sustainable. It seems like the border patrols have opened the gates

    April 6, 2014 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  23. KHS

    (1) I agree with Jeb Bush. He is probably the only republican with compassion.
    (2) The Hispanic immigrants do not come for freebies. They work very hard.
    (3) Many of the commenters regard the immigrants like the nazis regarded the jews: As subhumans.

    April 6, 2014 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  24. jeff

    Its a act out of desperation in most cases... and a statement about the corruption and inhumane country they are fleeing from....the super Rich of there country should be sanction just like the power brokers of Russia are right now!

    April 6, 2014 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  25. Pancho villas Tortilla

    The Chinese built a wall how long ago? With man power over impossible terrain for many miles yet we say we can't? Hmmmm. Anyway we need immigrants with tech/computer skills, engineers etc. There are enough landscapers and low wage workers. Does this mean all the millions who want to come to this country legally should just buy a ticket to Mexico and walk across or get smuggled? That is the message they are sending. How about 10 million Chinese or Africans? Ooops now the latinos will be upset. What a joke our borders are and are politicians. And yes Mexico does bad things to immigrants in their country yet want us to let them all in. No thanks

    April 6, 2014 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
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