(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.
Follow @politicaltickerFollow @danadavidsen
"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.
Just lost my vote. You could say the same thing about robbing the local pharmacy because your child is sick or robbing a bank so your family won't be evicted when you can't pay your mortgage. It's still illegal.
Love is fine, but as the rest of you, we just want to get a job to make a little cash to pay rent, food, and stuff. We do not really want any freebies but only the opportunity to work without the fear of being deported and separated from our families until who knows when..
Bush just needs the Hispanic vote, nothing more. LEGAL immigrants love their families as much as anyone else. Trying to justify illegal immigration on this basis, while all the OTHER immigrant groups go through the process the proper way is ridiculous...
wow a bush committing political suicide although is really a viable canidate
I'm thinking Jeb has made his mother very happy.
More proof that the "fighting" between Dems and Reps is an act. Politicians are all working together to destroy the middle class by flooding the job market with desperate foreign workers. The end goal of politicians is to create two classes: 1% Super rich, 99% desperate poor
It's capitalism that brings them hereto begin with, and the pay scale south of the border. In the beginning they were brought in by the farmers and citrus growers in California to pick the crops cheaply. Also because most American swill not do those back breaking jobs. Then was it Reagan gave three million of them amnesty in 1986. But lately the Repugs have been railing against the illegals when they really want them and need them. So hypocrytical. As usual.
I know we are good for this country for all the work we put out on a daily basis. We pay some taxes even if not into the SSA because we seldom have a social security number. But the boss man knows that we will get the job done. Yes sir!
Roses are red tulips are blue, why wouldn't you let me
post the truth
YEP> WE WILL RULE THE USA WITH AN "ACT OF LOVE".
My family came here legally sixteen years ago. We have went through the complete process from the beginning. Why should it just be handed to them because they chose to do it illegally? Why because of the huge number here make everyone legal have to pay for that choice?
Cool... Thanks Jeb. In that case, I'm going to start robbing banks to support my family. I will tell the judge that Jeb said it's not a felony... It's an act of love.
Allowing mass illegal immigration is an act of treason.
Sorry, laws are not invalidated by "act of love" so Jeb let it go. If they are here illegally they need to be deported NOW no questions asked no time wasted. I am amazed at how many of these folks we know about but let stay here against our own laws . . .
Jeb Bush, you are a pandering moron. I am a Republican and even I would not vote for you.
The New Republican Strategy – lie about GOP positions, pander and project whatever message the people really want, get elected, and then shove the Bible abd Putocracy down the throats of the everyone and convert America into a Theocracy.
Republicans are a threat to a Free America
if we are going to allow people to do this, just open the borders already. you cannot have it both ways. if you are for illegal immigration, giving illegals rights, you cannot just allow it for those able to sneak in.. let everybody in the world come, that is what you are saying Mr. Bush right? lets start right now. wait, what, no that is not a good idea? really? bunch of idiots.
...Whoever associated the word LOVE with the tea party ?
Jeb Bush is an idiot on immigration (among other things) – just like his brother and his father before him. Pandering to the illegal alien (read: Hispanic voter, since that's who they're trying to win over) will NOT win them any favors. Every Republican who has been soft on immigration has not won any votes because of it. The illegal immigration crowd always turn out to be Democrats, no matter what. And it doesn't matter that they are looking for a better life. They are law-breakers, trespassers, and invaders. Jeb Bush sounds like he'd be just like Obama – pick and choose the laws he wants enforce and ignore the rest!
The U.S. has needed and made use of immigrant labor since the turn of the last century. The vast majority of them come here to work- necessary work that otherwise wouldn't get done. Some want to stay, many move back and forth across the border with the economic conditions. The U.S. (and Congress) simply have to deal with this situation. Too bad the GOP just wants to play politics with it with absolutist nonsense and scare tactics claims (well illustrated by our Right-wing posters here today).
Another RINOI Being in the country is against the law. That doesn't mean illegals don't work hard, it simply means they have broken the law.
Go ahead and reform the immigration laws as long as all illegals leave the country and go to the back of the line.
If the United States was not 16 trillion dollars in debt, the issue of illegal immigration would not be as critical. However, we ARE 16 trillion dollars in debt and do not need any more expenses than we already have.
Some ignorant comments about our well fair system. No one who comes here with no paperwork will go ANYPLACE near a government program. They typically work two or more jobs. Have you ever applied for any kind of government assistance. They want proof you are eligible. They are mostly aware of fraud. Most immigrants will not even answer the census or call the police. They prefer to remain invisible.
OK there is ONE government program they DO take advantage of, public schools.
Folk come here for a chance at a better life meaning freedom; freedom from hunger, from want; from a thousand things.
Folk want them here for two reasons; it help keep wages low for certain types of work and changing demographics after all these politicians have to run or rerun for office.