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. Bull

    This is utter nonsense. Illegal immigration isn't love. It's a recipe for failures. All it creates is a bunch of new, welfare-dependent kids who are just as apt to have litters of fatherless children who will also be welfare-dependent.

    April 7, 2014 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  2. Rob

    Well it is obvious that Jeb is as smart as his brother George W. Which means he isn't smart at all. Remember what we got with George W. 13 free trade deals for a loss of 8 million American jobs, (George thinks handing amnesty out is a great idea also) at the time he left office we were losing 100,000 to 200,000 jobs each and every month. Wall Street banks handing billions of taxpayer dollars. Two never ending wars and all that was accompllished was that we made Bush and Cheney buddies like Haliburton rich with taxpayer cash. If you want me to vote for Hillery putting Jeb Bush up for President will do it. I think the only reason this guy wants to be President is because he and George W have been running competition for years. Competition that was usually won by Jeb back in George W Bush's drinking and drugging days. But George W got elected twice and even though he screwed the country very badly he walked out of the White House with $100,000,000. Jeb now thinks it is his turn.

    April 7, 2014 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  3. B.B.

    Jeb Bush is an overweight, weak, chair filler, who would be more than happy to follow both his father's and brother's lead to commit this country to more ill-planned financed wars. And on the flip-side, name one of this country's enemies who wouldn't be thrilled to get some payback on him for the wars the Bush name is associated with? Also name one of our ally countries who would love to see another Bush as president.

    April 7, 2014 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  4. Lois

    To: Xplain_plz
    Sorry, your "argument" is old and worn. You are mixing apples with oranges, legal/illegal. We now have laws, abide by them. Legal immigration, apply? What about people like me, part black, native and German Jew, whose family has been in America for the past 7 generations? See how stupid your argument in support of illegal immigration is? No viable country in the world encourages illegal immigration, they are the takers, and, if they come committing a crime, they continue. It's distracting to say that this is their only crime when as soon as they come they steal our ID's, America's #1 consumer complaint is identity theft! Yes! We only want documented immigrants, and their is no justification for illegal aliens...back to the drawing board for a new argument! Yes, and act of love, love for self only! Entitled...

    April 7, 2014 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  5. Lois

    We do not need another Bush nor Clinton...Anything but!

    April 7, 2014 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  6. lisa m.

    Pandering to Sheldon Adelson again! Whatever Sheldon Adelson is for, Jeb Bush is for now. He's a bought & paid for robot. Adelson is also pro-abortion. I wonder how the right is going to take that when they find out that Jeb Bush is for that too.

    April 7, 2014 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  7. Wildfawn

    Glad to see one Bush has some compassion and sense. Does anyone really think people leave their families and all that is familiar to them, risk their lives to get here (and often losing them or being assaulted and/or abused along the way), and then be treated as near-slave labor when they get here just because it sounds like fun? They come here because they are desperate and it is often a matter of life or starvation for them to come here. There's not a one of us reading this article and comments who wouldn't break a law if it meant the difference between their children eating or not eating. And let's not forget that for every illegal immigrant who breaks our laws to work here illegally, there's an employer who is also breaking the law. I doubt any of these employers are nearly so desperate nor have nearly so much to lose or gain by the illegal employment as the immigrants themselves do. They're employing them against the law purely out of greed. Why don't we take care of our own lawbreakers and slam them?

    April 7, 2014 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  8. 1whoknowz

    I suppose that would make deportation an act of love since we are reuniting illegal aliens with their loving members so very far away.

    April 7, 2014 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  9. Angel

    KEEPING IT THOUGHTFULLY HONEST: Finally, a voice from republican side of the aisle that addresses the issue of comprehensive immigration reform bill that needs to be passed! That is the bottom line!

    April 7, 2014 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  10. Michael

    Anyone whose ancestors arrived prior to the initial immigration law can be considered illegal. Europeans arrived on these shores with the intent to push the natives off of the land. So anyone making a big stink about how reform is pandering to illeglals, take a good long look in the mirror and your ancestry. If your ancestors are Native Americans, you're excused.

    April 7, 2014 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  11. Angel

    THE INCONVENIENT TRUTH : The bottom line is! Finally, a rationale voice from republican side of the aisle that addresses the issue of comprehensive immigration reform bill that needs to be passed!

    April 7, 2014 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  12. DM

    Mr. Moderate my point in sharing the immigration laws is to simply show that Mexico has very strict laws in place and is happy to enforce them. We should do the same. I am not against immigrants coming to this country legally, that is why we have a process, just as they do. If you are indeed trying to make a better life for your family then show them the proper way to do things and abide by the laws of this country. There are countless others waiting for citizenship here that have taken the legal path.

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

    April 7, 2014 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  13. patw2100

    Guess the Bush's need some illegal household help.

    April 7, 2014 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  14. barryinlasvegas

    This comment closed the door on any hopes of becoming the GOP presidential nominee. They weren't very good anyway. We don't need a 3rd Bush presidency and we don't need a 2nd Clinton one either.

    April 7, 2014 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  15. redneck

    Who cares if Republicans ever win another White House. We hate and we don't care who knows it.

    April 7, 2014 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  16. scooter

    1: its nice to hear lip service given by a GOP person attempting to deal with the obvious demographic shift that is headed toward the solid GOP south like a tidal wave.
    2: We need no more bushes. They are just too hard to take care of.

    April 7, 2014 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  17. MJ

    just lost my vote

    April 7, 2014 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  18. sly

    Ho ho ho - GOP is total disarray.

    They all hate each other, they hate illegal immigrants, and in the past 20 years, they've vetoed all 22 immigration bills.

    In other words: The Party of Stupid. "I dont like that idea, and I have absolutely no ideas of my own".

    April 7, 2014 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  19. greasemonkey

    "Jeb Bush said the debate over immigration reform needs to move past derisive rhetoric describing illegal immigrants."

    ....Without derisive rhetoric, the GOP would have nothing to say at all...........

    April 7, 2014 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  20. Scott

    The once great party now has one leader. Just one, and he can't even win his own party. Why are conservatives so lost when they have so much to offer. Good for you Jeb Bush!

    April 7, 2014 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  21. Patricia

    To Looper: Members of my family have served in military since WW2. One killed in action, one a POW . They served in Korea, Vietnam, and Afganastan, Iraq. That is what gives me the right. I have seen some of them come home and kiss the soil of the U.S. when they get off the plane. Now that is a true act of love for this country.

    April 7, 2014 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  22. James

    And people wonder why the American public are so frustrated with their politicians. I find it unbelievable how someone who never has to worry about paying for their mortgage, paying for health care or vacations and drives limousuines can tell the American public that illegal immigration is love. I wish he could spend a week in downtown Los Angeles and see what this love has done to this one top beautiful city. The prisons are packed with hispanic gang members, the schools went from top in the nation to one of the worst due to hispanic kids dropping out and not having a value for education. Spanish is spoken everywhere because these people do not want to assimilate and become Americans. They want the jobs here but that is it. I wish he could read the LA times and not a single day goes by when hispanic males do not commit crime. The Los Angeles census showed that 80 percent of hispanic household in LA county receive public asisstance. So how dare you tell the American people. We have to live with this mess. You don't.

    April 7, 2014 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  23. kobrakai7474

    Jeb Bush is not a dumb guy. As such, he certainly knows how rhetoric like this will play in the Republican primaries. The only explanation is that he wants to "run for president" but has no interest in or intention of actually getting the nomination. Perhaps, he wants the prestige. Perhaps he wants to pull a Newt Gingrich and use a phony baloney presidential run to raise interest in his other money-making ventures. Heck, maybe he just wants to be vice president rather than president. Whatever his plan, he knows that saying the above quote guarantees that no hardcore conservative (and that is mostly who votes in primaries) would dream of voting for him so he can now never hope to be president... unless he plans to switch parties.

    April 7, 2014 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  24. pardon me

    Why would Judd Bush seek the republican nomination? Is he seeking some kind of presidential trifecta for being terrible ?

    April 7, 2014 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  25. Syd Chaden

    And so, further to Jeb Bush's policy, if someone is concerned over the well-being of their family, and, in order to provide for their family, they rob or steal, since they have done so out of love for their family, it is justified, so long as they keep the value involved below the felony level.
    There is a broader global problem that Jeb Bush ought to comment on, unless he decides that he has already said enough. Islamic terrorism plagues the world. Its root cause is the Islamic doctrine of "death to infidels". No Western leader has seen fit to comment on it, but the Muslim World takes the doctrine very seriously. The two major branches of Islam, the Sunnis and the Shia, each consider the other to be "infidels", and they have been killing each other for centuries for that reason. Muslims continue to kill Muslims today, pursuant to the doctrine, in Pakistan, Iraq, Egypt, Libya, Mali, Sudan, Nigeria, Lebanon and Syria. Muslims have killed non-Muslims, pursuant to the doctrine, in Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Nigeria, Indonesia, Thailand, China, Russia, Europe, Israel and the USA. And, just as Jeb Bush deems illegal immigration to be love for family, Obama deems Islam to be the religion of love. And, he says, Islamic terrorism is the work of a tiny minority. But, the Sunnis and the Shia are hardly a tiny minority, and "death to infidels" is hardly a message of love.
    If illegal immigration is an act of love for one's family, then the USA should deem illegal immigrants to be refugees from persecution, abuse, or natural disasters in Mexico. However, no one, Bush included, even suggests such a thing. Rather, our political hacks have photo-ops with Mexican leaders, who reciprocate by criticizing the US treatment of illegal immigrants. Obama even apologized.

    April 7, 2014 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
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