April 6th, 2014
04:08 PM ET
5 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. nebster21

    They broke the law. There is a way to do it legally. Thousands of people do it year.

    April 7, 2014 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  2. ghostwriter

    I'm surprised he hasn't back tracked yet. I guess Rush didn't have time to whip him back in line over the weekend.

    April 7, 2014 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  3. danomite

    Better be careful Jeb or you'll b branded as a RINO. You should know to be a Republican you have to hate: Gays, minorities, gun regulation/registration, illegal immigration, abortion, business regulations, public assistance, gay marriage, taxes, liberals, separation of church & state, women's rights, minimum wage and all employee rights laws, clean water & air, the ACA, poor people, the middle class, Muslims and all the other heathen religions, renewable energy, single mothers, unemployed people, banking regulations, consumer rights, lawyers, atheists, and the Earth & environment. Failure to hate each and every one of these with gusto is reason to expel you from the club.

    April 7, 2014 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  4. cheapster505

    when did you first notice these liberal feelings? when the maid and gardener wanted time off I had to cut their hours
    in half and hire their cousins for half the pay

    April 7, 2014 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  5. What about the rest

    So, when I commit armed robbery to feed my family, it is not a felony, it is an act of love.

    April 7, 2014 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  6. fbruns

    Of course he is right, it is often an act of love, and takes a lot of gumption. Also, for the majority of immigrants who come to work hard and abide by the law, it is at most a victimless crime. These people who get all riled up about it are hypocrites. They talk about being a nation of law, and yet the vast majority break the speed limit everyday. Breaking the speed limit is against the law and can get people killed. These immigrants are doing nothing nearly so pernicious.

    April 7, 2014 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  7. bdby

    With all the problems America now has Jeb wants to invite more ILLEGALS into this country.

    This announcement by him should make him realize who side he is on.

    It is certainly not Middle America's side and for that should not get our vote come 2016.

    He should forget even about running after announcing this BS.

    April 7, 2014 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  8. Lisa

    NOT a felony? The laws disagree. Why not just throw open our borders.... let anyone and everyone in? Ridiculous.

    April 7, 2014 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  9. avnewstoday

    Well Jeb, you just lost any consideration for a vote at this end. It's not about race, it's about laws. As soon as the liberal agenda is seen for what it really is, votes, cheap labor and human trafficing, we'll continue to spiral into the abyss. Shame too, this country use to be great.

    April 7, 2014 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  10. avnewstoday

    fburns...seriously? Sneaking into our country, tabbing into our resources, medical, food stamps, welfare, schools, etc., etc., is like "breaking the speed limit"? It is sad that you have sold out your country for the sake of illegal aliens and hopefully your family, and your families family will not suffer with unemployment and loss of benefits. A "act of love"? BS, it's an act of betrayal by yet another Bush.

    April 7, 2014 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  11. OnTheRoad

    Say whatever you want to say, Jeb, but I will never ever vote for another 'Bush' in the whit house!

    April 7, 2014 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  12. DM

    Immigration Laws
    1. There will be no special bilingual programs in the schools
    2. All ballots will be in this nation’s language
    3. All government business will be conducted in our language
    4. Non-residents will NOT have the right to vote no matter how long they are here
    5. Non-citizens will NEVER be able to hold political office
    6. Foreigners will not be a burden to the taxpayers. No welfare, no food stamps, no health care, or other government assistance programs. Any burden will be deported
    7. Foreigners can invest in this country, but it must be an amount at least equal to 40,000 time the daily minimum wage
    8. If foreigners come here and buy land…options will be restricted. Certain parcels including waterfront property are reserved for citizens naturally born into this country
    9. Foreigners may have no protests, no demonstrations, no waving of a foreign flag, no political organizing, no bad-mouthing our president or his policies. These will lead to deportation
    10. If you do come to this country illegally, you will be actively hunted & when caught, sent to jail until your deportation can be arranged. All assets will be taken from you
    Too Strict?
    The above laws are current immigration laws of MEXICO!!!!

    April 7, 2014 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  13. Matthew

    What's his position of abortion rights?

    April 7, 2014 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  14. midwest2

    The first time someone crosses the border illegally, it is a misdemeanor. However, the 2nd time, it becomes a felony. Immigration is not about love. It's the breaking of our country's law! I would never go to a foreign country without proper documentation. The fact that millions of people do so here does nothing to promote other nations to have respect for us and what we supposedly stand for.

    April 7, 2014 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  15. floorme

    I believe Jebb Bush is off on this one– Legal immigration is an act of love– Illegal immigration borders on child abuse– Teaching a child that breaking the law is okay if you can justify it in your own twisted and dark corners of your mind– I guess in JB's mind, that stealing or shoplifting from a grocery store iis also an act of love – or murdering someone for their money to feed your kids is an act of love– or carjacking someone is an act of love as long as you want to drive your kid somewhere– NO- when an act starts off with the word -ILLEGAL- ther is NO LOVE INVOLVED, only selfishness -

    April 7, 2014 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  16. Mr. Moderate

    DM – I would hardly consider Mexico to be a country to aspire to be.

    April 7, 2014 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  17. Marion Guyton

    @midwest2 is only HALF CORRECT! While illegal reentry after removal constitutes a felony offense, @midwest2 is completely WRONG in stating that an initial illegal entry constitutes a "misdemeanor" offense! Rather, an initial illegal entry into the United States it is a "CIVIL" offense ONLY, NOT a "CRIMINAL" offense! Such persons are placed in CIVIL administrative removal proceedings! Well-established immigration case law clearly sets out that REMOVAL (formerly characterized in statutory law as "deportation") is NOT "criminal" punishment, but "civil"!!!

    April 7, 2014 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  18. Bob

    Actually a great percentage of illegal aliens (they are not immigrants) gave entered the U.S. a second time and Mr. Bush entering a second time is in fact a FELONY.

    April 7, 2014 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  19. zaglossus

    No more Bush's, please!

    April 7, 2014 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  20. herrer

    Well good luck telling that to todays republican party.

    April 7, 2014 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  21. turbooffy

    Jeb Bush, absolutely no in 2016. This guy's a part of the squishy soft "moderate" cadre of McConnell, McCain, Snow, Christie etc. This people have spent the last 5 yrs. coddling the Uber Liberal agenda of Nobama et al. This country doesn't need any more belt way, collaborating establishment REPUBLICANS. We need morec onservative, Constitutional centered, America loving citizen legislaters. Obviously, enough of the Uber Lib incompetents and RHINOS.

    April 7, 2014 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  22. bobo

    If you are here illegally.... you are here illegally... period. Now if Obama said that.... it wouldn't be true! lol

    April 7, 2014 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  23. UScitizen

    this guy will be a disastrous to middle class american citizens. If his idea goes thru , ALL us citizens needs to leave US of America to find a job elsewhere. he wants to dump in as many foreign workers into this country and make this a third world country like india and mexico

    April 7, 2014 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  24. Vince

    Phew. I was getting nervous that Jeb could actually beat Hillary...but he just lost the primary (Tea Party) voters with that...thanks Jeb!

    April 7, 2014 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  25. Xplain_plz

    For all of the anti-immigrant commentors here – please post proof that all of your ancestors came to this country as documented immigrants. For those of you whose ancestors arrived in the 1700's and earlier, please show proof of immigration papers issued by the various Native Americans tribes/groups/confederacies that existed at the time. Thanks.

    April 7, 2014 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
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