April 6th, 2014
04:08 PM ET
6 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. Xu Xui

    Bush would sell out his mother for a vote.

    April 6, 2014 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  2. Rider

    NO! No more Bushy's... Go Away!

    April 6, 2014 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  3. EdRam

    Jeb Bush, you da man. Jesus said "What you do for the least of my brethren you do for me". It's funny how this beautiful land that was taken from Mexico at the hands of European's (That came illegally) is now slowly returning to the rightful owners. Racist Americans of European ancestry will have to flee, hopefully to their native land, if they want to rid themselves of the rightful owners of this land, Mexicans.

    April 6, 2014 11:55 pm at 11:55 pm |
  4. NoSlack2327

    "And act of love" What utter nonsense.

    The feel good responses are bankrupting this country, and are morally hollow.

    If people are here illegally they should be deported out of this country.

    April 6, 2014 11:55 pm at 11:55 pm |
  5. Jon

    Welp. Jeb's done. He'll never get anywhere in the modern GOP with that kind of common-sense rhetoric.

    April 6, 2014 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  6. Junggg

    Love all right, love of benefits provided by the honest taxpayer.

    April 6, 2014 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  7. WML

    This is a complicated issue. Bush is right, though. People come to America because it offers opportunities that many cannot get anywhere else in the world. Illegal immigration is a problem that needs to be solved, and advocating for the same treatment of people who broke the law as common felons is not in the spirit of this country. I don't think they should get citizenship rights in the same manner as legal immigrants either. How about this. Look at how long it would take for people to legally immigrate to this country (it can take two decades or more). Add seven years to that. Then they can become citizens.
    Maybe you can give people legal work status for twenty or so years, then transition them to full immigrant status after the waiting period. Then after the appropriate time, make them eligible for citizenship.

    April 7, 2014 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  8. jerry9997

    Remember, it was his idiot father that first came up with the "path to citizenship" which has caused chaos ever since. This guy is a looney and won't get the Republican nomination for Presidency.
    Illegal alines come for one reason- to see how much money they can steal from US taxpayers. Read about the illegals with a tax number claiming 15-20 children or relatives who live in Mexico and have never set foot in the US. These people cost the US taxpayer 5 BILLION dollars last year in Child Tax Credit money, and the IRS refuses to send agents out to prove 90% of these illegal child relatives are not living in the US. Not to mention free health care, Food stamps for their anchor babies when their illegal wives come over, legal representation and cost of incarceration. 27% of prisoers in California are illegal aliens.
    His brother was the worse US president next to Lynon Johnson and his Great Sociery., War on Poverty (that's where Food Stamps came from- and now 80 Billion dollars/year), and Vietnam War.
    Bush almost put the US in a depression with his promoting "real estate for the masses, selling real estate with no down payment and using welfare check proceed as income for buying a home.
    Jeb Bush is a total loser and I have completely written him off.

    April 7, 2014 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  9. Greg

    We have a serious issue with this. Our politicians want the illegals here because they benefit in some way to the cheap labor. The cheap labor drives down the wages of everyone else. If the people do not rise up we will have a rich and a poor class. Illegal immigration is an act of war.

    April 7, 2014 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  10. LTn

    I agree with one person that this is a bit of pandering. Now if Jeb went all the way and believed what he said and fought for good, he might get my vote. But it IS going to be the same old stuff, just a different year. It's a joke, they're a joke.

    April 7, 2014 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  11. jerry9997

    No more illegal aliens, our prisons are already full, our Food Stamp program is bankrupt, our schools are already full of people that can't speak English and schools have to hire a small army of teachers to teach in Spanish while trying to teach the kids English.
    No more Jeb Bush, his Father already almost destroyed the Republican party and his father was the idiot that came up with the "Pathway to Citizenship" for illegal aliens instead of deportation.
    Deport all illegal aliens now.

    April 7, 2014 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  12. wallynm

    Lets make one thing clear. It is our as in "US" fault that they come here. If I was a Mexican and saw that I could better myself and family by moving north with little of no consequence I hope I would take it. Major companies and both political parties want them to be here. As long as we have no program in place to control immigration we should expect nothing to change. I submit we have no national will to control immigration abd therefore we do not control it.

    April 7, 2014 12:05 am at 12:05 am |
  13. Oneula

    This guy sounds to practical to be nominated by the Tea Party influenced Republican Party. Chrisy and Bush would make a grand combo, but the TP would prefer some nut job like Ted Cruz.

    April 7, 2014 12:05 am at 12:05 am |
  14. BorisRoberts

    They are giving away my/our country, for the possible votes (how much do you want to bet that citizenship for illegals gets fast tracked?), and cheap labor. The city I live in, Santa Maria, CA, is being overrun by them. They say there is a 9-10% unemployment rate here, but in young men and late teens, its got to be 30-40-50%. All the jjobs the I, and everyone of my friends and relatives worked as entry level young adults, busboy, dishwasher, car wash, job site clean ups, etc., etc., are now filled by illegal aliens. I know of NO construction workers, roofers, laborers, etce., tradesmen, that make more than half of what they made in the 90s, because an illegal will do it for $12 an hour. Giving away my cou try. Absolutely disgusting. All this talk about ACA, but when you are illegal, you can have babies for free. And they are immediately eligi le for food stamps, section 8 housing, Medi-Cal, and loads of other free stuff, because their parents are squatters, just come in and sit, someone will gi e you something. In our loacl high school, 95% of students do NOTgo onto junior college. We have the highest rates of hit and run in CA. We have the highest rate of teen pregnancy, IN THE NATION. But its an act of love. No, ITS AN ACT OF TREASON.

    April 7, 2014 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  15. ed

    Another Bush wants to hold the torch... Jeb will dance at the sound of the music to be elected... If elected, he could be as great as his bother as president. Sweet!

    April 7, 2014 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  16. american

    so a burglar breaking in your home is doing it for love and to 'spread the wealth'...that's BS!

    April 7, 2014 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  17. Doug Peters

    So is it okay if I rob a bank because I have to feed my family and its an act of love because I love my family.
    You either have laws, or you dont have laws, but you dont try to justify actions to find loopholes in the spirit of the law.
    what a croc.

    April 7, 2014 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  18. Henry

    Translated to : "vote for me in 2016".

    So transparent

    April 7, 2014 12:17 am at 12:17 am |
  19. Melvin Painter

    I seen illegal aliens, and every damn one of them had several false ID (ID theft) on them, and every one of them were standing in the anchor baby social program line funded by the US taxpayer. Every neighborhood containing the illegals is crime-ridden, gang infested, drug overrun, hell hole. You can't even drive through the place during the daytime. Their kids are wasting our tax dollars by using our schools as baby sitting service as they fail and drop out. They do not come here to become Americans, they come here to make money any way they can which includes crime, drugs, ID theft, and social programs.

    April 7, 2014 12:20 am at 12:20 am |
  20. AtlantaNative

    He can afford to have all the illegals here he wants. He will never have to worry about money or a job. Send the illegals packing. They are taking money, jobs, health care, security away from American Citizens.

    April 7, 2014 12:24 am at 12:24 am |
  21. American

    Call it what you want to, but it needs to stop, along with the exporting of American jobs.

    April 7, 2014 12:28 am at 12:28 am |
  22. TheSadTruth

    Now is the point at which Republicans begin to try to present themselves as the poster child for the "NEW GOP", since the party is bow down and sinking fast, thanks to their pointless and ceaseless attacks on Obama without any alternative plans for ANYTHING.

    April 7, 2014 12:29 am at 12:29 am |
  23. Anonymous

    Not only that, but the more illegal immigrants coming to our country to work, stealing jobs from Americans that already find it difficult to find jobs, will work with lower wages. Thus sliding down the wages of American workers even further. Given enough time, we will find ourselves with 3rd world problems. Combine that with the severe lack of opportunity we face now, will force Americans to migrate elsewhere in hopes of finding better opportunities in different countries. In conclusion, Americans will become the new Mexicans.

    April 7, 2014 12:29 am at 12:29 am |
  24. thejayman

    Not only that, but the more illegal immigrants coming to our country to work, stealing jobs from Americans that already find it difficult to find jobs, will work with lower wages. Thus sliding down the wages of American workers even further. Given enough time, we will find ourselves with 3rd world problems. Combine that with the severe lack of opportunity we face now, will force Americans to migrate elsewhere in hopes of finding better opportunities in different countries. In conclusion, Americans will become the new Mexicans.

    April 7, 2014 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  25. Chris

    Lots of people would "love" to come to the US, but only a select few can just jump to the front of the line. Something is wrong with this kind of "love" if it's not available to everyone.

    April 7, 2014 12:34 am at 12:34 am |
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