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. Dennis E

    The GOP have and will continue to be a road block for all 99% folks living in America. Obstructionism is not a healthy form of governing. Nothing will get down. There model of divide, divide and conquer for their own selfish reasons is a joke. Illegals are illegal and should be deported. We are a nation of laws (except for the wealthy in the United States. They can get away with murder or worse. No reason for details on this issue at this time.)
    The Anchor baby law is no longer correct. Just look at the businesses that have made our immigration law a joke of the entire World. Birthing houses in Southern California and other States all across the nation. That costs this nation of ours Billions and Billions of dollars annual. Folks I know that came from other countries followed the rules of our immigration laws. They filled out there paper work, waited in line for years then excepted the terms of our citizenship. Cheap labor is the draw that brings illegals to America. The border patrol is doing there work. However, when you have a disconnect in government and not everyone (corporations do not come close to paying there fair share and get tax breaks that are just not right ! Americans are not an uneducated lot by and large but they know that when America corporations off shore there profits and find havens with a lower tax rate they will just file incorporation there to avoid federal and state income taxes, all the while using every infrastructure that America and her States have to offer. That leaves the repair burden on the middle and lower taxed individuals. Our democracy is being bought and sold by American and multi-national corporations and the most wealthy in our country. I keep thinking of the quote by JFKennedy and others. "With great wealth comes great responsibility" We have lost our way with the income gap in the United States.

    April 7, 2014 07:11 am at 7:11 am |
  2. JakeF

    A rational observation and statement from Mr. Bush followed by the usual screeching and hysteria from the fringe.

    It might be time for news organizations to provide the news and get rid of these comment sections.

    April 7, 2014 07:22 am at 7:22 am |
  3. joe

    @Sven – working hard and "doing had work" are two totally different things. Ask anyone (like myself) who has supervised this lot. You turn your back for one moment and they stop the "hard work".

    April 7, 2014 07:27 am at 7:27 am |
  4. Blue Dog

    Wow! This guy won't make past the primaries in the current GOP.

    April 7, 2014 07:34 am at 7:34 am |
  5. dave

    we are all a nation of immigrants. lest we forget how our great grandparents were treated right off the boat

    April 7, 2014 07:34 am at 7:34 am |
  6. mucklucky

    By Jeb's statement, if your actions benefit someone, then it's an action of love. So if you rob a bank to feed your family... it's an act of love. If you break into a house and kill it's residents, then move your family in... it's an act of love. If you rape someone repeatably and they get pregnant... it's an act of love.
    Get this perverted logic out of here! If you break the law you should go to jail... howmuch good will they do their family from jail? At the very least they should be deported with an implanted device ... and if they come back, as a repeat offender, then shoot them!

    April 7, 2014 07:35 am at 7:35 am |
  7. heebeejeebee

    uh. it IS a felony regardless of being an act of love. I don't hold it against them, I hold it against our government (read US Congress) for failing to act. The US Congress has also forced the Dept of Immigration to take on way too many H1B visas. Those are supposed to be niche technology visas, instead we bring people here to write Java code that any US IT graduate or retrained music student could write. This is done to suppress the growth of IT wages. I'm all for investing and helping out other countries but not at the expense of the citizen work force. So much of the wages paid simply leaves the country and helps deflate the economy. I'll get dozens of responses from H1Bs or former H1Bs for this – and I don't resent you, I understand why you are here, I would do the same thing likely. But in reality, we all know why this is being done, who is doing it and it's wrong because our own students trying to enter the workforce suffer for it.

    April 7, 2014 07:36 am at 7:36 am |
  8. jzaks

    How about if I quit paying taxes. That would qualify as an act of love for my family also.

    April 7, 2014 07:37 am at 7:37 am |
  9. Rachel

    So breaking the law is now an act of love?

    April 7, 2014 07:37 am at 7:37 am |
  10. h4abworld

    Every immigrant needs to be legally processed and checked for immunization. And what Bush said don't make sense. You can't charge an illegal immigrant with a felony other the being illegal and deported. Most earlier immigrants were processed through Ellis Island. And that's the way It should be done today. Don't you think earlier immigrants that took this path to citizenship may feel disenfranchised by the system today hearing of illegals walking in our country from over the borders. If the earlier system would have stayed in place families would have not been separated from loved one. Government not doing there job they were elected for just like today on so many issues.

    April 7, 2014 07:37 am at 7:37 am |
  11. Benjamin Faith

    Come on Folks, he has a point! "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.

    April 7, 2014 07:39 am at 7:39 am |
  12. TSB8C

    Without borders you're not a country.

    April 7, 2014 07:40 am at 7:40 am |
  13. Okie

    It is no act of love towards all the LEGAL immigrants whose applications get shoved aside for illegals like the DACA applicants. Does anyone ever think of us? We have spent thousands of dollars to get here the legal way, yet oftentimes we are getting treated worse than the illegals by USCIS. I am from a western European country, I am highly educated, and my husband is American, yet it took us almost two long years for me to get here and get my Green Card because of DACA, which slowed down legal immigration substantially. It was really painful to be away from my husband for such a long time. That is not how it is supposed to work, that people who do illegals things get preferred treatment over the ones who do things 100 percent right.

    April 7, 2014 07:43 am at 7:43 am |
  14. john

    "I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully." —Presidential candidate George W. Bush, Saginaw, Mich., Sept. 29, 2000

    April 7, 2014 07:45 am at 7:45 am |
  15. Bob Hope's Ghost

    Let me see if I got this right. Obama pushes for immigrant reform that gives out free amnesty to over 30 million illegals and the left loves him for it. When a republican agrees with it, they are evil, corporate slaves and should be fired or not re-elected? Nice double standards.

    April 7, 2014 07:46 am at 7:46 am |
  16. alloydflanagan

    A compassionate stand on immigration. That answers the question, "does he want to run for President"? Clearly he's not interested, he's blown his chances for the primaries. God, Bush v. Clinton in 2016 - it's like some horrible drug flashback.

    April 7, 2014 07:49 am at 7:49 am |
  17. wjm980

    The libs need to expand their base, so they'll try anything. What's pathetic is they've been promising the poor anything and everything for decades, and yet poverty is still rampant. Guess the gullible poor will believe anything.

    April 7, 2014 07:52 am at 7:52 am |
  18. HFM

    Easy to see from where his genetic influence comes from....when brains were on the assembly line, he and his brother took a break and missed that phase. What a moron. 'Act of love.' Yea, right. He and other Gimme Gimme Gimme Republicans just want $2 a day labor so those same Republican business owners can rake in the profits, so they can then stuff campaign coffers with cash to make sure the laws favor themselves....

    April 7, 2014 07:52 am at 7:52 am |
  19. iceload

    Sounds like the campaign has begun.

    April 7, 2014 07:53 am at 7:53 am |
  20. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Looks like Jeb will be the one driving the clown car...

    April 7, 2014 07:53 am at 7:53 am |
  21. kevin flannigan

    Heck lets throw open the flood gate, let anyone and everyone come in, see how fast the welfare system goes bankrupt along with the rest of the country, just get it over with, we will be the India of the americas

    April 7, 2014 07:53 am at 7:53 am |
  22. Brian

    spoken like a true democrate.
    We are a country ruled by law. Suckers like us get in line to move to this country waiting 10-15 years. Don't give me your high and might speech to justify law breaking behavior. If a law breaker's actions are tollerated, justified, and then rewarded, you are effectiving aiding and abetting a criminal, you are a criminal yourself.

    April 7, 2014 07:54 am at 7:54 am |
  23. rla

    Who cares if it is an act of love, greed, criminal pursuit– it means we do not control our borders and i am taking from my family to support this mob??? Seem citizens do not have love if they don't support the rediculus tripe the progressives put out and now Bush

    April 7, 2014 07:55 am at 7:55 am |
  24. Dar

    For those of you that are complaining about what Jeb said about immigrates, Are you for real?? It wasn't too long ago when the Dems were all for immigration, and we should be. (Just like our forefathers were) The Republicans were all for throwing them out of the country or in jail.............????? Why has this swapped around now?
    Easy answer....................THE VOTE!!
    Read between the lines people, it is all an act, Or Politics as some call it.

    I love what one person said on here: His stance on allowing people to flagrantly break our laws and disregard U.S. sovereignty is just one reason he must never be allowed to become President.
    BUT it is ok to let the current President step all over our laws and create a racial division between us all.
    All politicians LIE through their teeth for the almighty VOTE. Does Jeb mean what he said?? He never ever said it before and now that he is thinking of running for President, Why not say something to gain votes!

    April 7, 2014 07:57 am at 7:57 am |
  25. rla

    Dave– We have a u6 unemployment of over 15% We do not need any more workers!

    April 7, 2014 07:57 am at 7:57 am |
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