(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.
Gee we thought Georgie jr was the dumb one.
STOP CONFLATING ("confusing") ILLEGAL immigration with LEGAL immigration! In other words, sneaking in via the back door is IL-legal, needs to be STOPPED. Standing in line, coming in via the front door and being officially led in/let in/brought in, that is LEGAL immigration, to be continued to be encouraged. NOT THE SAME, THESE TWO ARE.. Kapisch????
'tavuka2' – my thoughts exactly! Don't favor Mexicans over billions of others.. Compassion should know no bounds!
He is so rich that he is not even aware that we already have 30 million Americans looking for jobs. Well, either he is not aware or he just does not care.
pause the war
We took the land from the Native Americans in the name of Love !
Love is a very spender thing !
Maybe Jeb Bush can start a new war that will bring us a few million new refugees .
There is nothing like a US involved conflict to attract new immigrants .
So if a crime can be perceived as 'an act of love' we should look the other way? Laws are laws...if you think they're unfair, change them. Until then, people are expected to follow them and those you don't should be punished.
@Sven.... The only people that buy that argument are people whose hearts have become jaded, and the only people that make that argument are those with ulterior motives. There is something about Jeb Bush that makes you think his is a good man. The same was true of his father.
This is the first time in decades that I actually agree with a man in the Bush clan. The women are great, the men usually way too right for me but so far, and I never thought I'd say this, but Jeb isn't all that bad and I agree with his take on immigration.
So here we go. I'll say it now and I'll say it again: No More Bushes. Please....
Nearly 70 percent of Mexicans surveyed said that Mexican-Americans – including those born in the United States – owe their primary loyalty to Mexico, not the U.S., according to a Zogby poll commissioned by the Center for Immigration Studies.
The in-person poll, taken during August and September, sampled 1,004 Mexicans across the country on subjects related to illegal immigration and amnesty in the United States.
When asked “Should the primary loyalty of Mexican-Americans be to Mexico or to the U.S.?” 68.8 percent of respondents in Mexico said that it should be to Mexico, while only 19.7 percent said it should be to the United States. Another 11.5 percent of respondents said they were not sure.
You must bear in mind that the Florida tourist industry is dependent on people who are willing to work for less than the U.S. minimum wage and without benefits when you listen to the comments of the former governor. In fact, if U.S. immigration policies had not been overlooked in order to provide the tourism and agriculture industries with with cheap labor, there would not be any illegal aliens in this country. In the old days, when illegals were deported, employers were stuck with paying a living wage. But thanks to initiatives undertaken by Republicans on behalf of big business, they have been allowed to stay and undercut wages, resulting in a loss of jobs for American workers and a reduction of wages across the board. When Bush speaks of love, he is referring to the love of money, and the people who supported him when he was in office have enough of that to support his bid for the presidency. I'd take everything he has to say on the subject of illegally-imported cheap labor with a salt mine. American workers cannot afford to have another Bush in the White House.
Jeb Bush is pushing back against the tendency of right wingers to dehumanize and not feel compassion towards illegal immigrants by pointing out that most just want to take care of their families. I say yes to increasing the official U.S. work force and increasing taxes paid to the government and goods & services used by illegal immigrants via giving them a path to citizenship. Let us get them out of the shadows by giving them a chance to become citizens without fear of deportation so they can work for normal wages,pay all of their taxes, or be an economic boost to this country by becoming fully involved & invested in its economy.
So much for Jeb Bush ever getting the Tea Party vote. If you don't talk bad about illegals and bad about Obama then you are done with the far right.
Its time to fix this broken immigration system that we have
Well Said, we need to come united in a world where money, power and many other things are more important than have a sense of humanity. Let's fix immigration. I have many friends who have not been able to visit their families for more than 20 years because their legal statues, i find this inhumane.
@bearclaw, I agree with your psecond sentence but the first one evades reality. They are here and going nowhere no matter who is in the big chair. At this point we are shutting ourselves in the foot economically and evading reality to hang on to the solution that they will all get deported. Jeb gets it.
Where is the act of love for the middle class. Republicans love all that cheap labor."
And yet it is the Democrats who promote amnesty for illegal immigrants. I think you might want to check your facts there DJ.
Looking all "puppy eyed" and saying anything to get into office is "selfish act of love".
He is as stupid as his brother.
Your in the WRONG PARTY and WRONG family and have to much baggage to EVER be president. The fact that you were involved in your brothers rigged ELECTION will forever keep you out of the White House.
this fool is really trying to win the hearts and minds and votes.....
Pandering to suck up some votes.
No one wants another Bush in the White House!
And now the caving in comes from the right. The GOP, eager to capture votes from the spawn of illegals, is selling out this country and welcoming the law-breaking border jumpers.