(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.
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"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.
I will not vote for any politician that panders to illegal Mexicans, this clearly is an election move and he is willing to sell out American Workers and Taxpayers to get some voted from latinos and illegal Mexicans. This is a slap in the face to all Americans.......People that pander to illegals instead of putting forth the effort to help Americans disgusts me.......
Act of love no way. Illegal means illegal. I am so tired of hearing we all came from immigrants They came the right way, and they were not freeloaders on the system. It amazes me that the poor illegals work for almost nothing. Well if they work for nothing how can they send their money back to Mexico. Its because they get subsidized housing, subsidized babysitting, food stamps, free health care and whatever else the gov wants to give them. Deport them and their children they know when they come over here illegally their could be consequences. I am tired of pushing 1 for English they are the most uneducated and stupid race that can't learn English or just refuse. I know of a woman that came from Bosnia learned English on her own from watching television. Two young girls from Romania that speak English. My grandmother came over from Poland she could speak English. Back in the day no free classes for them they learned from their children. Call your representatives and voice your opinion because it is coming our of your pocket
It's funny that Fox News' Web posts about this interview are in Spanish.
I will vote surely for him, get things done.
There should be an illegal Alien App for notifying our ICE agents of criminals here illegally... You BROKE THE LAW.. GO HOME!
ENDING illegal immigration is ALSO an act of love- love for your fellow American worker.
Illegal immigration is not an act of ANY one thing. For some, it is indeed an act of love. For some, and act of desperation. For others, an act of opportunity, and still others, an act of opportunism.
Jeb is following nicely in the family footsteps: simplistic, meaningless analysis of complex problems. Sure makes ME want to vote for him!
Was his brother's illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003 an act love as well?
So, if I'm broke, out of a job and my family is out of food then it is ok for me to rob a Bank, or should I just hold back and only hit up the local mini-mart for a quick, but informal loan with no interest or payback due? Obviously such an act on my part would be one driven by the love of, and need to care for, my family.
What part of "It is ILLEGAL" do these people not understand? Jeb, Jeb, Jeb – apparently your model school system is sadly lacking in copies of dictionaries.
Yet another RINO shows his true colors.
Good luck with attempting to be elected for President.
this country doesn't have enough jobs as it is. Send them home.
There must be an election near. Republicans are sounding almost humane.
God help us all if we are to endure another Bush in office.
Pure and simple – this is why Jeb Bush cannot be trusted to be President of the United States. Charged with the responsibility to protect our borders and to enforce our laws, no President should rationalize why our laws should be broken. We have a system which serves us well – as long as we enforce it. But, when we do not, it costs us billions. This is not about how nice Latinos are or how hard they work. It is about the sovereign right of a nation to expect citizens of other nations to respect our laws. Decisions we make today will have grave consequence on the future. Those who may consider our air clean enough, our water plentiful enough, jobs accessible enough, our cities spacious enough, lawful enough and our economy robust enough to make room for a million more legal immigrants every year and millions more of illegal immigrants – just might wish to vote for Jeb Bush. As for me? Not a chance. Let us, the citizens of this nation, control our destinies before we turn them over to undeserving citizens of other nations who have countries of their own.
Touching... but what about the average Joe who can't get a job because some Paisa is willing to do the job longer and cheaper solely because he does not have to pay taxes on what he earns?
Yeah.. Jeb didn't bother to think of that one.
They don't come here for work, most come here for the government handouts and cheat the US out of millions. Like declaring their children, anchors, as AUTISTIC and handicapped to get a check. Sometimes two, three at a time. That's but just ONE of many ways they cheat the system.
And they ruin neighborhoods, they being the MAJORITY Illegal immigrants. AND THEY don't assimilate AND they discriminate even other Latino ETHNICITIES and marginalize them WITHIN Latino barrios in the USA.
AND Mexicans/Mexico also catch illegal immigrants IN Mexico and DEPORT them more brutally, even human traffic, human rights violate, single out Central Americans for mass deportations while Mexicans do NOTHING about their emigration up into the USA. Attrocities and several stories of women raped, impregnated, and deport them back by corrupt Mexican 'ejercitos".
The utter HYPOCRISY that Mexicans demand illegal rights and do it as an ACT OF LOVE is laughable with a serious look on your face.
i know – I'm Latino. Wise up people.
Well, we do realize that Mr. Jeb. Problem is what happen to the opportunities for some who's families immigrated here over a 100 years ago or more ?
Ever notice how America never encourages those here to move some place else but that other countries around the world are literally pushing their citizens out to here.
Mr. Jeb you come from a family background that is as well connected and wealthy as the Kennedy's You don't have a clue of what it is like to struggle in country who's opportunities where sold off to far off places by the club you belong to.
The good news is you let the hat out of the bag early on, which is good. We don't ever need again a Bush in the White-house.
Illegally entering a sovereign nation is not an "act of love" or their would be no such thing as a Passport. Nations that pick and choose which laws to enforce are better known as "Third World Countries". Jeb Bush would not be affected either way by illegal immigration, so why would he care as long as he has someone to mow his lawn?
Gee we thought georgie jr was the the dumb one'
In most cases, people come illegally not to skip our entry requirements, but rather to skip their countries' ridiculous EXIT requirements. The cost of passport is prohibitive for most, and permission to exit is often hard to get. It's not as easy as it is for us. If there was a way to apply for residence upon arrival here without having to return home first, people would do it.
So provide "opportunities" for *ALL*/*ANY* seeker(s), NOT JUST FROM "seekers" that have the chance to run across the southern border. In other words, WHY HAVE BORDERS AT ALL?
Another idiotic Bush sibling. No wisdom and no love for country.
What an idiot! He's trying to build a permanent class of slave workers. He loves the illegals but he must hate the rest of us!