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. sparky

    Well, Jeb, there goes your chance at the White House. Not sure you wanted it, but there it goes.

    April 6, 2014 11:00 pm at 11:00 pm |
  2. jehelm1223

    Oh!! Never mind foreign organized drug crime is 90% foreign from immigration that is pretty much causing HUGE std/drug healthcare bills-GIAnt std rates, AND TON OF HEADACHES AND HEARTACHES , and the state of california has a zero birth rate-more deadly std babies being born than normal IS PERMANENTLY BROKE from std/drug healthcare bills for the most part.-–AND i'M NOT A IMMIGRATION PERSON, but lets put the blame where it needs to lie–in foreign organized drug fronts-the immigration people are in the way-no ever says anything about the canadians or euro immigrants.

    April 6, 2014 11:01 pm at 11:01 pm |
  3. Tom American

    If we could be certain that 100% of them are here just for a better life and will not end up using government services intended for U.S. citizens, that would be one thing. But, we all know that the percentage is not even close to 100%. At best, it is closer to 50% and probably worse and that is unacceptable.

    I sympathize for people in those horrible conditions, but it does not override our laws to protect our own citizens and definitely not in the numbers that they are coming.

    Mr. Jeb Bush, before extending an open invitation to almost 7 billion people, can we please take care of our own citizens first?

    April 6, 2014 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  4. robkoz

    What is it called when illegals have their anchor babies here and make the American taxpayers pay for their hospital stay and their education?

    April 6, 2014 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  5. unperson192

    this speech by bush is an act of treason. I call on the DOJ to arrest Jeb Bush and try him for treason.

    April 6, 2014 11:05 pm at 11:05 pm |
  6. Jim Chapman

    It's really strange when Republicans incorporate :"love" into politics. Republicans don't know how to love or to make love to anything. They only have this sick "love" for money and power. Their "love" for cheap, illegal immigrant labor sits well with their sickness for more money and more power.

    April 6, 2014 11:05 pm at 11:05 pm |
  7. Jim Chapman

    It's really strange when Republicans incorporate :"love" into politics. Republicans don't know how to love or to make love to anything. They only have this sick "love" for money and power. Their "love" for cheap, illegal immigrant labor sits well with their sickness for more money and more power.

    April 6, 2014 11:09 pm at 11:09 pm |
  8. Ron

    Jeb Bush and his family want only the best for Hispanics. We need to realize that this country was built on the hard labor of Hispanics. Lets open our borders to let all who are poor and need to be free access to the Unted States. We need to reform immigration laws to allow these people easy access to the United Startes. Its the moral thing to do.

    April 6, 2014 11:15 pm at 11:15 pm |
  9. Skeptic

    He sounds intelligent but here's the problem: if he did get the nomination too the GOP he would just screw it up by becoming a puppet to his party. It happens with every free thinker.

    April 6, 2014 11:20 pm at 11:20 pm |
  10. nel

    I love to hear how illegal immigrants are hurting people looking for jobs, when most of the people on unemployment won't even consider working the jobs these immigrants are filling. Calling immigrants criminals are putting them in the same category as bank robbers, rapists, etc. Most immigrants are coming here looking for a better life. How quickly some forget that this nation was founded because immigrants came to this country looking for a better life...Some will say but my great grandparents came here legally and followed the law....people that say this need to look into the current immigration process. Our family that came here for the most part showed up at Ellis Island was processed and was allowed to stay...there is no such process today. The immigration laws are complicated. No one can just show up anymore like in the past and try to legally immigrate today. There are so many hurdles to go through today which people in the past never had to go through. All you hardliners out there looking to demonize people by labeling them as criminals and putting them in the same category as a drug dealer needs to reflect on how their ancestors immigrated here...with that said there are many people here that immigrate illegally that due commit felony's and they are worthy of being called a criminal and need to be prosecuted and deported. Remember, our criminal justice system is already over crowded with non-violent offenders. Law enforcement resources need to be focused on violent crime and crimes that endanger the public not on the guy picking corn in a field for a living and who is doing a job 99% of people legally in this country who is collecting unemployment benefits won't even consider. If you faced with living in poverty and you had a country you could go to nearby where you could make a better life for yourself what would you do? Stay living in poverty? Or would you take a chance to make a new life for yourself?

    April 6, 2014 11:25 pm at 11:25 pm |
  11. Ron

    Not good Jeb.

    April 6, 2014 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  12. tarura

    This conservative is not voting for another Bush

    April 6, 2014 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  13. Carole Clarke

    Why don't they love their home countries and fix whatever is wrong down there instead of traipsing all the way up here, paying guides most of the money they've saved only to be left in the desert? I don't get it – are their countries so lost to all hope they are not fixable? If we had acted that way where would the world be? Mexico is a huge country with wonderful resources – they should stay there and improve their country. If the politicians are that corrupt, get rid of them and put in good people. Take up arms if you have to – that's what we did. Do we have to take over Mexico to fix it?

    April 6, 2014 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  14. dotofoz

    I don't agree with a lot of things with the Bush family, but they have always understood why immigrants want to come here. And immigrants with whom I have had contact (I didn't ask for papers, so some could be illegal) are hard working people, not welfare people.

    April 6, 2014 11:30 pm at 11:30 pm |
  15. Carole Clarke

    The Bushes may be nice people personally but their political ideas are claptrap. So are the Clintons. If Hillary thinks we will forget Benghazi before election day – we won't. Four good men are dead because she was incompetent.

    April 6, 2014 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
  16. MIke

    Guess I know who I will not be voting for. They are violating our laws. Why does our country continue to support them for free?

    April 6, 2014 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm |
  17. jeffycakes

    There really are some idiots on here. Myself included I guess for jumping into the fray.

    April 6, 2014 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm |
  18. SactoNana

    Instead of outsourcing our jobs, we are insourcing!

    April 6, 2014 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  19. JPR

    Jeb wants the Hispanic vote, so illegal immigration according to him is an act of love now...Jeb, just open the borders even wider, declare all laws void and you will feel the love! Let the employed pay for it all, just annex Mexico and you will feel even more love. Another Bush.....God help us!

    April 6, 2014 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  20. kols

    One big reason for unemployment levels is because there are illegals working in many businesses. Illegals are not just fruit and vegetable pickers and the employers who hire them are displacing American workers because the illegals will work for less with no benefits.
    I am sick of them going on TV, radio or in the streets demanding no more deportations. If you are here illegally you have the gall to complain about deportations.

    April 6, 2014 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
  21. ShingoEX

    I don't see what the problem is. The country was founded on illegal immigration. We stormed in and took over, and it's only NOW an issue? Seriously?

    April 6, 2014 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
  22. ftimmer

    He rationalizes it as an act of love. However, how about all the people that have applied for visas and have been on 20 year waiting list. So, never mind all those who have waited patiently on 20 year waiting list. Never mind, the law abiding immigrants..

    April 6, 2014 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |
  23. Hillary

    Gee, just what we need in politics, another Bush. I'm sure he will want George to campaign for him, maybe show a few of his in the shower doing you know what paintings.

    April 6, 2014 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
  24. Steve

    I think Jeb may have just destroyed whatever slim chance he had to nab the 2016 nomination.

    April 6, 2014 11:49 pm at 11:49 pm |
  25. Xu Xui

    Act of love? It's an act of indifference toward the citizens of the U.S.A.

    This silly man is like his brother, completely out of touch.

    April 6, 2014 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |
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