April 6th, 2014
04:08 PM ET
4 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. Phil in the Blanks

    Jeb believes too much of what is whispered in his ears.

    April 6, 2014 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  2. greengestalt

    The SON of a BUSH...
    Isn't it so NICE how he sells us to Foreigner F ILTH?

    If he was a true Republican he'd promise a "Shoot on Sight" order, by Presidential Pardon if the DemoCrowoks block him with their stalling lock down tactics.

    April 6, 2014 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  3. galactus

    NO AMNESTY and no legalization for any illegal aliens. Jeb Bush is a traitor to the American people. We need our immigration laws enforced and all illegal aliens should be deported.

    April 6, 2014 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  4. rodger olsen

    it is certainly a and of love – love of food stamps, free medical care, no taxes, housing assistance, good schools that others pay for. The love of freebies is sincere.

    April 6, 2014 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  5. Mark

    As long as we allow illegal labor to cross the border. Wages for our under educated, lower skilled people will not only be hard to find, but the labor rate will always remain low. We need lower skilled workers. I wish we as a nation appreciated the a little more and were more aware of their contribution. But if their are lots of workers in the labor pool, than wages will never have to go up. So the people who should be most upset about illegal labor really should be minorities, under educated, lower skilled workers. Yet they are the ones who typically vote for the people who see illegal labor as an "act of love".

    April 6, 2014 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  6. Chris-E...al

    We should deport Jeb Bush also if he dont want to follow U.S. laws ?

    April 6, 2014 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  7. cedarEyes

    The picture makes him look like he's under some type of mind control. No, illegal immigration is not an act of love. It's a strain on any society. What else would help besides not employing people who do not pay taxes because they are here illegally and afraid of being deported? Hold businesses accountable for making print so small you need a magnifying glass to read it just so they can put Spanish on directions next to English. People who choose to come here should choose to learn the language and follow the rules, same as every other group.

    April 6, 2014 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  8. 0leDawg

    Ya know the great thing about space aliens compared to illegal aliens eventually space aliens will more than likely return home !

    April 6, 2014 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  9. Bad Dog

    Sure, it's an act of love looking to better your family economicall, just like robbing a bank is.

    April 6, 2014 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  10. georgex9

    When I hear of our damaged veterans I remember the accusations that Iraq was a danger to us. There was a lot of debate before the American media, public, and Congress were convinced that there was really a reason to attack and occupy Iraq. Do you remember the Bush/Cheney buildup to lead the country to attack Iraq? No one has been held accountable for this deadly decision.

    April 6, 2014 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  11. DonB

    Wouldn't assisted suicide be an act of love too? Look at what they did to Kavorkian. An act of love would be to send them all home and use the money saved (they will no longer be eating up our social program funding) to concentrate on the sick, homeless, and dying here in America. Their act of love kills the American citizens you politicians are supposed to protect.

    April 6, 2014 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  12. CaptOutraged

    So it's OK for Republicans that laws are NOT made for illegal Immigrants but ONLY for US citizens. There you have it folks....Couldn't have said it better myself. Now we can see what kind of mindset they have. That goes for our financial system too, It's OK to bring in Illegals so that the rich don't have to pay Americans a deceit wage and they can become more wealthy from having them work for nothing. Great Political Philosophy, it's how the rich are getting richer, the poor poorer and the middle class disappearing. Anybody complaining about Obama has a long stretch to say that a Republican will do better. Let's get rid of all the brain dead politicians and put some common sense people in office. It's really our chose.

    April 6, 2014 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  13. Loathstheright

    Jeb, you may not understand, the Republican party is about war, greed, racism and destruction, family values is only for their propaganda slogans.

    April 6, 2014 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  14. Morse

    What type of fantasy does this guy live in behind his posh residence and life style. It is not that people are bad but everyone cannot live here from 20+ countries endlessly. People from all over have many different values that others do not share. You just cannot make everyone live side by side with some values that are not too good to others.
    The economy cannot even support all. Be glad to pay 4.00 for a head of lettuce for good quality of life I worked very hard for born here legally.

    April 6, 2014 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  15. Ron

    With all due respect but his comment is bias and complies with the 1%ers need for cheap uncontrolled labor. His wife is from Mexico and she did not enter illegally. So what is the problem?
    This is a country with borders and security concerns. Why strip seach a Nun at an Airport and turn a blind eye to illegal immigration? Mexico is a rich nation but denies its people opportunities like free food, housing, medical, schools, money for not workig as does the United States. So why wouldn't they come to this country?

    April 6, 2014 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  16. Richard

    There are a lot of adjectives that I would use to describe chris christie but "the real deal" and a "spectacular guy" but these descriptions never come to mind! These guys just love each other until one of them embraces the president. I remember when they were disparaging him for saying the truth. Everyone has known a bully in their life, and since he has shown us his bully side, there is only one conclusion. Those defenders of Christie are either bullies themselves or are afraid of christie!

    April 6, 2014 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  17. veep

    This is what the definition of "DUPLICITOUS" is:

    deceitfulness in speech or conduct, as by speaking or acting in two different ways to different people concerning the same matter; double-dealing.

    the GOP HATES Illegal Immigrants, but they LOVE hiring them.

    Watch Mr. Bush's delicate dance of Duplicity.

    April 6, 2014 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  18. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    I believe the heavens and earth was created for all to share and mans laws are not in obediance to God's plan.

    April 6, 2014 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  19. jrs1972

    A terrifying thought is going from bush 2, to an even more useless obama 1, and then to probably the most useless politician alive, bush 2B. Doubt the country could survive that amount if incompetence for that length of time.

    April 6, 2014 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  20. PaPilot

    Yet another RINO that doesn't get my vote.

    April 6, 2014 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  21. Dick Drewes

    Since when is Jeb Bush a Hippy?

    April 6, 2014 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  22. GPM

    If people were regularly trespassing through Bush's front yard, setting up campfires and leaving trash and garbage behind, I seriously doubt that Mr. Bush would be blissfully watching them pass by, embracing such treks as "acts of love." Of course, as a 1 percenter what Mr. Bush expects for himself and what he expects for the rest of us are two very, very different things!

    April 6, 2014 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  23. Gary Sutphin

    Just what we need...Bush III. As if two wasn't enough! Good God ALMIGHTY!

    April 6, 2014 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  24. Randall "texrat" Arnold

    So many extreme, hateful comments... exactly the divisive rhetoric Bush correctly decried. How petty we are as a people.

    April 6, 2014 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  25. readerpan

    Jackola
    You EMIGRATE from your country...NOT ILLEGAL.
    You IMMIGRATE to this country without permission...ILLEGAL.

    April 6, 2014 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
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