April 6th, 2014
04:08 PM ET
7 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. NATHAN WIMBERLY

    Can't wait to see Sheldon Adelson,Rove,Grover Norquist and the GOP stuff Jeb Bush down the tea party's throats 2012 Mitt Romney style.

    April 7, 2014 05:30 am at 5:30 am |
  2. Anonymous

    yeah act of love for the Rich people to get cheap labor.

    April 7, 2014 05:43 am at 5:43 am |
  3. Miami Mike

    Who needs advance science and math courses for our public schools? We need more English-as-asecond language classes for children who came into the country illegally!

    April 7, 2014 05:44 am at 5:44 am |
  4. Reddog9500

    Jeb's only trying to line up the Hispanic vote for his potential 2016 run for the White House.

    April 7, 2014 05:49 am at 5:49 am |
  5. bob

    someone wants to try to run for office... maybe he should just give us a 300 dollar tax credit now and try to buy the vote.

    April 7, 2014 05:51 am at 5:51 am |
  6. Jibber Jabber

    fine, just go the european union route and open our borders to the world freely. USA citizens will be forced to work for $3 dollars an hour, and hence a creation of a 3rd world country, in which already in a lot of parts of this country the USA already has become. just continue to pretend that free trade and under the table pay immigrant work is great for us.

    April 7, 2014 05:55 am at 5:55 am |
  7. marek

    fine, just go the european union route and open our borders to the world freely. USA citizens will be forced to work for $3 dollars an hour, and hence a creation of a 3rd world country, in which already in a lot of parts of this country the USA already has become. just continue to pretend that free trade and under the table pay immigrant work is great for us.

    April 7, 2014 05:56 am at 5:56 am |
  8. RobMcAlister

    Jeb Bush doesn't need to make excuses...we, Americans need immigrants to do the jobs most people do not want to do...breaking laws, we need to change the laws to accommodate hard working immigrants who come to this country and contribute to our GDP and society...most don't even want to stay, all they really want to do is make some money and return to their country and live better...why do they stay, because once they leave, its hard to return...costs them over $6,000 for the dangerous passage back...make it so its easier for working visas...

    and yes, there are immigrants from lets say China and India who are taking advantage of our system...come here under false pretenses, working visas sponsored by bogus companies...we can stop that...

    the immigrants I speak of are mostly from Latin America and Mexico...Mexicans of all the immigrants should have special rights...the U.S. stole California, Texas, etc. from the Mexico...

    as far as Rubio and Cruz goes, they should keep their traps shut...they're hypocrites...just cause they are from Cuban ancestry, their families were given the privilege to stay in the U.S. cause Cuba is a communist country...are they so special...so on the issue of immigration, they shouldn't be given the podium...their suffrage is not equal to the plight of other immigrants of Latin America...

    I'm as conservative as they come and welcome a change to the law and to our party...

    April 7, 2014 05:59 am at 5:59 am |
  9. salty dog

    Good comments, but Jeb Bush? Please.

    April 7, 2014 06:06 am at 6:06 am |
  10. feablemindsrule

    Ask anyone who is from southern Mexico, and they will tell you that they do not want to move to the USA. Actually most Mexicans don't want to. They will tell you that ones who do come here illegaly, are not looking for a better life in the sense that most misguided Americans think. The better life they are searching for, is one that does not include being jailed in their own country.
    That is to say that virtually all of these people are coming here because they are on the run for crimes they have committed in Mexico. They are already illegals there before coming here, then they are of course illegal for coming in our back door, instead of the front door.

    April 7, 2014 06:10 am at 6:10 am |
  11. Tony Bartlett

    Act of love? The same can be said about theft, assault, murder, etc. If your crime is motivated by love, it's ok. Really? Go into Mexico illegally and try that argument.

    April 7, 2014 06:19 am at 6:19 am |
  12. cribbooky

    It's not about whether someone is technically breaking the law or not. It's the big picture. If we have a few million unskilled Americans sitting around completely dependent on taxpayers for their basic needs, bringing in laborers that assure these moochers have an excuse for not working. Americans need jobs, not workers. The only way the Democrats have been able to push their policies of slavery through taxation is through the purchase of pet voters who are not burdened by the taxes. By bringing in suckers from out of the country to share the burden of the American taxpayers, the Democrats can continue to retain their population purchased pet voters that are not required to carry their share of the burdens and responsibilities that normally come with adulthood.

    April 7, 2014 06:22 am at 6:22 am |
  13. Jafo

    Not another Bush!! I have faith, that Americans will not make the same mistake a third time. But, as the old timers use to say: Three times a charm.

    April 7, 2014 06:25 am at 6:25 am |
  14. CHRIS

    It is clear we can never allow another person with the last name Bush to be president. IF YOU DO NOT DO WHAT AMERICAN PEOPLE WANT AND YOU'ER IN POWER YOU ARE A TRAITOR AND AS SUCH YOU SHOULD BE JAILED. Americans do not want Amnesty and if you think we are going to allow this he is dead wrong.

    April 7, 2014 06:29 am at 6:29 am |
  15. Machine

    Not another Bush. Illegals aren't welcome to live here because they broke laws. We should charge Mexico for their ER visits. I work my butt off 9-5, and I don't have Health Insurance because I can't afford it. My wife has heath insurance for her and the kids, but I want them to eat and live first.

    So you're telling me, my tax dollars pay for these illegals to have free ER visits? Because if these illegals become citizens, they'll get new sociol security numbers and all is forgotten. I served 4 years in Iraq, with the USAF and I did my duties for my country. If these illegals want to become Americans, they need to do 4 years in the US military. I think we could errect up a foreign leigon of sorts. You have to earn the right to become an American. True Americans serve in the US military or the familes before them made that sacrafice for them. Godbless america.

    April 7, 2014 06:32 am at 6:32 am |
  16. CHRIS

    We can not allow our leaders to destroy this country with their Amnesty , They must and will be stopped.

    April 7, 2014 06:32 am at 6:32 am |
  17. CHRIS

    We are seeing treason. Anyone for amnesty is against America and in my eyes it is they who are more dangerous then any terrorist.

    April 7, 2014 06:35 am at 6:35 am |
  18. bdby

    "Yes, they broke the law, but it's not a felony. It's an act of love

    And with this statement you just lost your chance at president. All TRUE AMERICANS believe that anyone who crosses our borders ILLEGALLY are criminals. There is no way you can spin that.

    You are truely delusional in thinking otherwise.

    April 7, 2014 06:44 am at 6:44 am |
  19. OrmondGeorge

    Well, unless he changes parties, this should pretty much sink his Presidential potential.

    I cannot see how TEA Party "PATRIOTS" would give him the time of day, let alone the Republican Presidential candidacy.

    April 7, 2014 06:50 am at 6:50 am |
  20. Jetranger

    Ya, what a moron and Idiot, that's why see those Tunnels being dug at the US / Mexico border and Drugs found in them, and hundreds of illegals caught transporting Drugs for the Drug Cartels along the Drug Corridors of the US, its all a smoke screen, the Vast majority are Drug Runners involved with the Drug Cartels, involved with Gangs, Drugs, human trafficking, and those that believe differently are Naïve & Ignorant fools !!!

    April 7, 2014 06:50 am at 6:50 am |
  21. George Smythson

    scratch him off the list.

    April 7, 2014 06:53 am at 6:53 am |
  22. humtake

    Ahhh, I miss the Bush conviction. After so many years with Obama, it's plain to see that the Bush family ensures moral guidance is part of their leadership. Sure, people may disagree with the morality of their opinions, but we ALL know that the Bush family KEEPS WITH THEIR CONVICTIONS. Unlike Obama who just does what he thinks is good at the time regardless of the promises he's made, the Bush family will hold strong. They won't flip flop unless there is absolute need to do so. When they say they are going to do something, they do it. They don't make empty promises and they don't do something because someone has the same skin color as them and could have been their child. Again, not everyone will agree with their decisions, but that's true with anyone. All I ask for is a President who does what he says he will do, and the Bush's do that with conviction. I love it.

    April 7, 2014 07:06 am at 7:06 am |
  23. chivana

    With the Republicans pushing Jeb to run in 2016 they are assured of another Democrat in the White House.

    April 7, 2014 07:08 am at 7:08 am |
  24. Walter Adams

    Jeb can kiss his chance for getting the GOP presidential nomination good bye. TheTea Party will have a field day branding him as a RINO for such level-headed reasoning.

    April 7, 2014 07:09 am at 7:09 am |
  25. Buster

    I don't blame people people for wanting to come here, but that does not mean we can abandon our laws and welcome the world. Jobs are scarce and our government is deeply in debt and our highways are already congested. Plus, there will be a reaction to cut back on legal immigration if too many people come at once. Look at what is happening in Europe now.

    April 7, 2014 07:09 am at 7:09 am |
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