April 6th, 2014
04:08 PM ET
6 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. T E X A S

    Mexicans do work hard but if you send money home and then claim you can't afford health insurance you are gaming the system.

    April 6, 2014 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  2. mindstorms1

    I agree with Jeb Bush that the majority of these illegal immigrants are coming to the United States for financial reasons. So how can we alleviate this problem? It seems rather simple to me. Stop hiring them for jobs unless they come to our country legally. If Americans continue to hire them then the problem will continue.

    April 6, 2014 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  3. Patti in Dallas

    "...but portions of Bush's interview with Bream was televised on Fox News."

    So, CNN has no editors, eh? "Portions was televised..." Nice. Maybe that's how folks speak on Fox News.

    April 6, 2014 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  4. bob

    NO...NO....NO!!!.... illegal immigration is HUMAN SMUGGLING and SUFFERING... and VIRTUAL SLAVERY... Illegal immigration along with DRUG smuggling across our porous border is making cartels more powerful than the government in Mexico, making Mexico more of a hell-hole prompting more immigration perpetuating the cycle.

    Our constant inflation of wages on this side of the border ADDS to the pressure to illegally immigrate!! ALSO, notice that PRICES inflate along with WAGES,... including the price of DRUGS!!! Further motivating and empowering drug/human smuggling CARTELS!!!... the cycle is perpetuated some more....

    Mexico is our closest neighbor, we share common histories. Mexico SHOULD be a wealthy, safe, happy place to live. Mexicans SHOULD be happy and proud of their country and their culture IN THEIR COUNTRY! They shouldn't have to export and supplant OUR culture with (often the worst of) THEIR culture in OUR COUNTRY. I should be able, and desire, to visit Mexico and enjoy and marvel at their country and culture and their PRIDE in that culture and land. What are we going to do to make this happen? Right now, there's no way in Hades I'd ever consider getting within a few miles of the border, much less cross it.

    Imagine how much more powerful and SAFE WE would be with a wealthy, safe, Mexico on our border....

    April 6, 2014 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  5. Anonymous

    The disparity between corporate profits and employees' take-home totals is, at best, troubling. Managements refusal to return some portion of the swag to those who earn it for them is going to cause problems soon. Problems for the rich and owners who's practices are bankrupting their employees. Problems that, for the rich, will rival those experienced in the October revolution in Russia in the 1910's; and by the French in 1789.

    It does not help to continue to "import" cheap unskilled labor when unemployment is through the roof.

    Viva le revoloution!!

    April 6, 2014 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  6. behaviorquest

    That kind of intelligent compassionate talk will get him kicked out of the Republican Party. They did the same thing to John Hunstman the most intelligent of the last Republican fiasco. Let them draft someone like Ryan, Bachman or Palin. That worked for them so well last time!

    April 6, 2014 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  7. john

    I am so sick of this country, even though I live here 19 years. Americans are rude, uneducated, they try to blame immigrant for their problem. look in the mirror and go read a book, instead of turning on your football.

    April 6, 2014 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  8. bob

    NO...NO....NO!!!.... illegal immigration is HUMAN SMUGGLING and SUFFERING... and VIRTUAL SLAVERY... Illegal immigration along with DRUG smuggling across our porous border is making cartels more powerful than the government in Mexico, making Mexico more of a ___-hole prompting more immigration perpetuating the cycle.

    Our constant inflation of wages on this side of the border ADDS to the pressure to illegally immigrate!! ALSO, notice that PRICES inflate along with WAGES,... including the price of DRUGS!!! Further motivating and empowering drug/human smuggling CARTELS!!!... the cycle is perpetuated some more....

    Mexico is our closest neighbor, we share common histories. Mexico SHOULD be a wealthy, safe, happy place to live. Mexicans SHOULD be happy and proud of their country and their culture IN THEIR COUNTRY! They shouldn't have to export and supplant OUR culture with (often the worst of) THEIR culture in OUR COUNTRY. I should be able, and desire, to visit Mexico and enjoy and marvel at their country and culture and their PRIDE in that culture and land. What are we going to do to make this happen? Right now, there's no way in Hades I'd ever consider getting within a few miles of the border, much less cross it.

    Imagine how much more powerful and SAFE WE would be with a wealthy, safe, Mexico on our border....

    April 6, 2014 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  9. don in albuquerque

    Gee, "Compassionate Conservatism", Pretty thought, but it will not happen. Same thing Bro ran on and it didn't happen. What did happen? Two unbudgeted wars, and a destroyed economy which will probably take another ten years to recover. Words like "compassion", and "love" do not fit into the Bush vocabulary. But nice he reminded us of it.

    April 6, 2014 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  10. bwweinstein

    Jeb just went up 20 points in my book, and down 20 points in chances for the Republican nomination.

    April 6, 2014 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  11. unsername1

    Mr. Bush, can you say the same thing " It's an act of love, it's an act of commitment to your family" for illegally entering MS 13, 18 members ? If background is being checked for legal immigrants, how do you propose to check background of illegal immigrants? Just asking.

    April 6, 2014 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  12. caladita

    Bush calls it "an act of love" but it is still illegal and shouldnt be allowed or tolerated,I'm hispanic myself living in Canada but I came here legally and it cost me hard work, blood and tears along with 5 years to finally become a permanent resident of this country, I did the right thing, I did it legally, I didnt do it while running over other people's right or asking for handouts, I can't understand why people who do it the wrong way should be rewarded or given anything, that's highly offensive to natural-born Americans or even to myself, it is sad what the US has come to: a country that once we (down in Mexico) thought as a country where the right things were done, the law was respected and there was common sense...the US government does need to acknowledge that this is part of their fault cuz had they acted 20 or 25 years ago and enfprced immigration rules then they wouldnt be in this trouble but someone started doing the wrong things and tried to take advantage of the cheap labour and now you have a BIG problem where there's more than 10 million ileagl immigrants who might contribute but they get way more in return than they provide like access to healtcare and handouts, education to their children etc etc....somebody screwed big time long time ago and now it needs to be fixed, as n immigrant I believe in immigaration but I believe in the right kind of immigration, the right people to come here to make these countries (US and Canada) greater, many people who enter the US specially south down the border is the VERY wrong kind of immigrant we need and it has nothing to do with color of skin or nationalityit has to do with education and desire te become truly American which is what previous immmigrants have done, the opposite is happening: they are trying to build Mexico insid the US, just look at Miami where people wanna force you to speak Spanish where this has always been and English-speaking country, theres parts of Texas which resemble way more Mexico than the US and guess what? That's not a good thing at all....the Bush Familiy is just focused on getting another opf them elected and they will do whatever it takes to do it as they have done in the past, for them or the Clintons or ay of those types of families is about doiung what is best of them (getting them elected) rather than doing the right thing for the rest of the coutnry ...Polticians should be the VERY first ones who enforce laws and do not tolerate people who breaks them, it seems the total opposte these days...let's just hope that whoever becomes president in 2016/17 is a person with very different ideas than the Bushes and Clintons and Obama....from a LEGAL immigrant

    April 6, 2014 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  13. mrivera1119

    Embracing immigrants, Mr. Bush? That’s your swangsong inside the Party of Hate aka the Republican P.

    April 6, 2014 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  14. The Iceman Cometh

    BS on mexican workers are hard workers. Ive ran many jobs and they fluff off just like every one else.
    And further more their work standards are not up to US standars , they have to be trained just like everyone else.

    Bush is full of it. If his analogy is true then theives thugs and drug dealers should be commended as well.
    Look what they risk to have a better. Life.

    anyone who can say immigrating illegally is an act of love, when so many bad acts of violence are being committed in that process has litle sence of right and wrong.

    all this does is influence more illegal immigration. They aren't following the laws now and people like bush are setting precedence that no one has to follow the laws they hope to pass ... fixing the broken immigration policy. ?.. broken by law breakers.

    April 6, 2014 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  15. Tyler

    The Bush family would know "an act of love" when they saw it. Just like the invasion of Iraq.

    April 6, 2014 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  16. caladita

    Seems like my comment wasnt welcomed by CNN since it;s not being published ...I'm Mexican but a permanent resident of Canada and I'm AGAINST illegal immigration! We're a rare case of common-sense people here which recognize this has nothing to do with race or nationality but with right and wrong

    April 6, 2014 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  17. TLORop

    Bank robbers, "are often looking for opportunities to provide for their families that are not available" otherwise.
    Bank robbery is not a felony, it is an act of love.

    April 6, 2014 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  18. Chris-E...al

    Immigrants should follow U.S. laws .

    April 6, 2014 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  19. sameeker

    The only act of love here is the love that the corporations have for cheap labor.

    April 6, 2014 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  20. Moster

    It is easy for him to make these types of comments when his wife is from Mexico. We should not be worried about taking care of folks from other countries and take care of our own. It is bad enough that cooperations continue to do off-shoring of jobs to feed the pockets of the rich. The middle class and lower class will always suffer as long as the republican have it their way.

    April 6, 2014 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  21. sameeker

    The only act of love here is the love that the corporations have for cheap labor. Let them pay higher taxes to take care of all the illegals.

    April 6, 2014 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  22. rrjkr

    Apparently, the United States of America is the only Country that has this "problem". That should speak volumes to detractors both here and abroad. Everybody wants to come to America, and that's not a bad thing. Our strength is born of all those who have come before, and we are still "The Shining City on the Hill" to many.

    April 6, 2014 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  23. tavuka2

    Lets send all our illegal invaders to Jeb's house.. he needs love... He can feed them, give then houseing, medical care. welfare... etc.. all on his paycheck.. not ours... If you want house guests who will give you love Jeb.. its on it way.. by the billions.. oh.. and none of your guests and new family will be living off the American Tax payers....

    April 6, 2014 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  24. jeff

    If Jeb Bush gains the nomination I'll vote for him.

    April 6, 2014 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  25. CGDoc

    Come down here to Arizona Governor and witness first hand their "Act of Love." Daily Border Patrol are in pursuit of those armed lovers transporting their love drugs into our country. Along the route they leave a trail of death and destruction.

    April 6, 2014 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
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