(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.
Theft and love are not the same thing.He will do anything for a vote. We need jobs for Americans ,not for those who sneak into America illegally.They need to be sent home.
He is speaking of things the majority of Republicans cannot understand or won't even try to. It's a classic battle of the haves versus the have nots and it's been repeated multiple times in history. Jeb Bush is probably the only Republican I would vote for. I applaud him for speaking his mind where all other Politicians pander to the camera. The Republican Party put Obama in the White House with a collective effort. Let's see what happens in the next election.
How about you pay for all of them and leave my tax money alone.
I've seen the Bush family's idea of "love". No thanks.
I wonder if any of you realize a majority of us don't belong in America. Unless you are Native American, you are just as much as an immigrant as "illegal immigrants." Your families emmigrated to America, what right do you have to call yourselves true Americans.
I have to agree that this sounds like Republicans pandering in the first degree. And you can bet that the potential cheap labor pool and bigger tax base makes them drool.
While I do agree that most folks that come to America from other countries are probably doing it for a better life, I totally disagree that we should accept that they are breaking the law. There are so many people waiting to come to America legally, what message are we sending to them? It very well can be an act of love, but it is a SELFISH act of love. Give it to me NOW, I want it NOW, I should not have to wait like everyone else that is waiting and doing it the legal way.
I wasted 4 1/2 yrs. of my life attempting to complete international adoption legally. FINAL COST $83,000 and ruined
family unit. Adoption never realized as no one in US Gov. cared enough about our daughter to offer a helping hand.
NOW MR. BUSH IS SAYING IT'S OK FOR ILLEGALS TO SWARM OUR BORDERS BECAUSE THEY'RE ACTING OUT
OF LOVE FOR THEIR FAMILY. WHAT THE HELL DO YOU TELL THE HUMAN BEINGS WHO'VE BEEN ON WAITING
LISTS FOR TEN YEARS OR MORE, OH SORRY YOU DON'T LOVE YOUR FAMILY ENOUGH. IS THERE NO JUSTICE IN THE WORLD FOR THE PEOPLE WHO ARE CRAZY ENOUGH TO ABIDE BY THE LAWS!
Well there goes his primary chances ...
no vote for you!!
BS!! These people BREAK THE LAW! Get in line behind everyone else that is doing it the LEGAL way. Another Bush, another loser!
Open Borders – yep, that will be an act of....INSANITY!
No one seems to remember the 1986 Immigration Reform Act which granted amnesty to millions. Ah, but the the holy Reagan was president so I guess that was alright.
There went my vote.
OMG.. another politican saying whatever it takes to get votes. They know they need the hispanic vote so lets decriminalize their acts to acts of compassion.. Just another BUSH blowing in the wind.. read my lips no new taxes.. Weapons of mass destruction... and now its an act of love.. I got one for you how about just doing it the right way the way my ancestors did...
Illegal is still illegal. And the end does not justify the means.
I'll vote for Jan Brewer before this guy!
If someone goes to a car lot or a store and steals a car or goods for their family because they don't have any money, Is that not a crime? What is the difference? Basically what he is saying is it's ok to break the law if it's an act of love. Wrong is wrong. Don't get me wrong I feel for them I really do but I was raised to obey the rules and the law. If you break either one you know the consequences. I spent time in Mexico I get what their facing. What they need to do is work to change their country instead of changing ours.
you can always tell wh is giving their opinions. if it is an act of love, it is a have that gets cheap labor out of it. if it is a have not, they lost their job to the act of love
It's not an act of love, it's an act of selfishness. They know we're over loaded and will take time to process so they "jump the line" literally and figuratively. Its just selfish. It's not caring about what this country you're going to has to deal with.
I'm greatful the Mexicans are coming. It's great the will outnumber every other race in this country faster than anybody seems to realize. The white media has dumbed down white America and America will never be what it once was. Glory to Putin, Glory to Russia & the Mexicans!
Support Breaking-And-Entering Amnesty!
– It is a human right that I can enter your house at will and take over one of your rooms.
– it is YOUR responsibility that you pay for my education. Who cares if YOUR kids education becomes substandard. YOU MUST pay for mine!
– It is YOUR responsibility to pay for my free healthcare. I don't give a damn if YOUR healthcare costs skyrocket. YOU MUST pay for mine!
– It is YOUR responsibility to pay for my free food through food stamps. Who cares if the tax money that should have been going to legally grow the country is spent on feeding me and my own after breaking into your house.
Actually, if he can get the GOP nomination, it may actually win the election for him.
Well, his run for the office of president is gone. lol
Did the people complaining on here read the article? Bush said "they broke the law, but it's not a felony" that " there should be a price paid". He's not saying to just let them off the hook, just that the penalty should not be a felony. And for the person that spent $83K to adopt internationally, maybe you should have done some research first and adopted closer to home.