April 6th, 2014
04:08 PM ET
9 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. Joe in Kalispell

    As Bugs Bunny would say... What a maroon!

    April 7, 2014 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  2. jcluvstrnity

    Well, he cannot go against his wife, can he? I think that's what it's all about. Laura has Hispanic roots also.

    April 7, 2014 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  3. Sniffit

    GOP/Teatroll entrenchment on this issue will be their undoing. Enjoy your demographic Armageddon, guys.

    April 7, 2014 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  4. John

    Yes it is an act of love, therefor the Republican party is a party of hate.

    April 7, 2014 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  5. achepotle

    The Bush's don;t fit the stereotype of the right wing ko ok...they are olygarchs, yes, but they aren't like the narrow hateful rural base.

    April 7, 2014 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  6. mickinmd

    Yes, it's an act of love to the family. But it's an act of destruction to American families because the legal and illegal immigrants drive down the wages paid for many jobs and then people make the excuse they are jobs "Americans won't do."

    Here in Maryland White, Black, Asian, Native American, etc. workers once made decent livings painting, tree trimming, steaming crabs, working farms, etc. Back in the 70's, a Hollywood movie shot in Baltimore had to bus in Hispanic extras from New York because there were so few locally. Today, the state is so swamped with legal and illegal Hispanics that the local PBS has a Spanish Language channel – though all the fundraising is done on the English-speaking ones!

    And when BGE sent two teams of subcontracted workers out to trim/cut trees down on my street around power lines, they spoke Spanish to each other and had trouble answering homeowners questions. Working for close to minimum wage and no benefits, they drove locals out of those jobs which are now "jobs Americans won't do."

    So, yes, it's an act of love to foreigners, but it's also an act of destruction to Americans.

    April 7, 2014 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  7. Todd E.

    It's called pandering, folks. One of the many tools in a true politician's toolbox.

    April 7, 2014 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  8. anchorite

    "And when did you first suspect that you might have liberal tendencies, Mr. Bush?"

    April 7, 2014 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  9. theThinker

    Gov Bush got it 100% correct.

    April 7, 2014 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  10. Dywlf

    Corporate republican like the Bush's have always favored illegal immigration to supply cheap labor to their fellow oligarchs. it helps to get the local peasants accepting of their low salaries.

    April 7, 2014 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  11. James H

    This country is run on LAWS. "So let it be written so let be done", and I have had enough of ONE man changing what WE THE PEOPLE have written!

    April 7, 2014 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  12. case

    Is he nuts? Act of love my...

    April 7, 2014 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  13. apotropoxy

    Now Jeb will be able to tell his grandchildren that, had the GOP listened to him back in 2014, America would still be a two-party country.

    April 7, 2014 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  14. Astrodude

    Let the drain on the "American" tax payer continue!!! What a joke!!

    April 7, 2014 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  15. Chuck

    I have a legal court judgement, against a Hispanic man who happened to be an anchor baby – his dad came to USA illegally, mom USA citizen. Not to surprising, the Hispanic man has snubbed his nose at rule by law – ignoring judicial process. Yep, that's "love" for ya!

    April 7, 2014 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  16. Yes It's Not

    Has it really come to this America? Please, say it isn't so. We are a country of almost 320 Million people. Out of those 270 Million who are of working age, certainly, for the love of Old Glory and this land, can't we find ANYONE besides Bush and Hillary to run in 2016? This is insanity, and I can't believe I am going to live to see it. It makes me so, so, so sad for the future of America where the people are force fed these candidates. We might as well never have fought the Revolutionary War at all if we are just going to hail "Queen Clinton" or "King Bush." America doesn't need another oligarch. It needs a real leader.

    April 7, 2014 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  17. j.

    So, let me see if I understand this correctly: According to Jeb Bush, it's okay for someone to break into another person's home and steal if that person is doing it out of an act of love to his/her family? Amazing.

    April 7, 2014 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  18. Ancient Texan

    Those statements will cost a lot of primary votes.....the main opposition will say "illegal is Illegal".

    April 7, 2014 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  19. raggmopp

    Put yourself in their position; you're hungry, your family is hungry. You're looking for work, food and safety.
    You would do the same thing.

    That doesn't make it right, but all I see is whining.

    April 7, 2014 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  20. cheapster505

    so is bank robbery but no one loves that criminal?

    April 7, 2014 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  21. Paulwisc

    A republican using reason instead of hatred when talking about illegal immigration. How unusual.

    April 7, 2014 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  22. Joeseph Eclaire

    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.

    April 7, 2014 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  23. Paulwisc

    Chuck, if his mother is a US citizen, so is he. Your post reduces itself to bigotry and nothing more.

    April 7, 2014 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  24. joe

    Nobody wants more financed Bush wars!

    Jeb Bush is a weak stooge.

    April 7, 2014 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  25. Peter Gerdeman

    Interesting thoughts, but just say NO to another Bush in the White House. From his brother starting a 10 year war based on misrepresentations (now WMD ever found in Iraq), to Terri Schiavo case, most Americans have had enough of the Bushes.

    April 7, 2014 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
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