(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.
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"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.
Right so when a mother that's broke robs a bank to feed her kids, that's not a felony that's an act of love. Stop the absurd rhetoric please it is insulting.
What other country in this world is being asked to assimilate tens of millions of foreign nationals who enter illegally? What is the motive to put the interests of foreign nationals above those of citizens?
Really, so hopping over a fence in the middle of the night with an AK 47 on your back and a backpack fool of drugs is an act of love? What an idiot. Bush you will never get my vote. I'm sick of these Bush's and Clintons can we please get someone new?
so I guess the creep robbing a 7/111 is only doing it out of love for his family ans although it is illegal we should just overlook it.
Yeah. I'm already sick of hearing anything about the Bushes, especially Jeb.
But the media circus begins.
Please dear god don't let the GOP nominate this man. Another mush mouth middle of the road republican Just like the previous GOP losers of Ford, Bush (father and son), Dole, McCain , and Romney. If this man is nominated it will ensure another Democrat president. We need a bold conservative like Reagan to unify the country. There were no red or blue states when Reagan was elected because he won all of them.
How about we deport all the illegals and defend our borders. How about a little love for Americans. Maybe if we take away the relief valve that Mexico uses to export it's unemployed workers the Mexican government would deal with its own corruption issues. Mexicans are hard workers. Imagine if they used that work ethic to make their own country better?
This issue would be much less contentious if the U.S. would stop creating anchor babies. Citizenship should never be granted to a child when neither parent is a U.S. citizen.
Shows that he does not know what a felony is. If it is a federal law and they break it, then yes, they have committed a felony. Act of love my butt. It is a slap in the face to all those who come here legally. Yes, this man must never become president.
Jeb Bush will have little or no luck trying to moderate the Republican party because the entire base of the party took the short bus to crazy town years ago.
If you break a law, you are a felon. If you break a federal law, you are committing a felony. This man does not know the meaning of the law, which is why he must never be allowed to be president.
Well I remember when Dubya ran as a "compassionate conservative." That ended with two wars, the complete deregulation of the Banksters and a depression. I've already heard this nonsense from the Bush clan. We don't need dynastic presidencies and we certainly don't need an even further right wing supreme court who s selling what's left of our democracy to the highest bidder. Show me a Republican who believes in campaign finance reform and they. Have my vote.
And giant electrified fence would be a condom.
Act of love? Try cultural selfishness.What about the Nigerians,Ukranians,the Vietnamese and every other people who have worked hard and longed to come to the US but didn't have a porous border to sneak across? What a slap in the face to them.Victimless? I think not.
Bush family, as a group, are very empathic will illegal immigration. Get no credit from the media or democrats and not a great deal of support from many Republicans Good or bad thing, be decided in future elections but at least the Bush's are consistent.
On a side issue, many immigrants, legal and otherwise, are coming for the American Dream, streets of gold and all that stuff. Most Americans seem to be leaning away from that. What the government can give me, where is my free stuff, do you really expect me to work for my money, marriage, responsible for the kids we dropped, religion no way, etc. Those who want the American way probably do not speak English as a first language..... whole bunch of us will have to get over it.
We all need to make sure this guy don't get elected to the office where he can open the borders "out of love". Law is the law. There are many murderers who kill to "provide" to their families
I'm sure the Mexican government would welcome millions of illegals from the US with open arms. It's all about the love.
This guy is starting to stick he head above the horizon, surely to God this electorate wouldn't inflict another Bush on us. Please say it isn't so.
I guess you could say it is pandering – how else could you put something like this a Republicsn would say. I believe – and obviously the way Bush sees it – that if you are a Christian or a truly spiritual human being, you need to find compassion and then try to find laws that have that spirit of the origin of our country. Should we regulate our borders? Yes, but we need to make room to improve our ratio of those that share what should be the spirit of our country – or at least what it used to be.
Sounds like he's courting the Hispanic vote. What a bunch of non=sense.
@Jackola Its not their fault they are here illegally because we didn't guard our border? That is like say it's not a thief's fault for stealing your TV while you're at work because you didn't guard your house 24 hours a day.
so as long as i rob a bank to better by family it is not a felony
This is one republican that WILL win and hispanics WILL get him elected.
Donald Trump just told Jeb to go back to Mexico
Stop hiring illegals??? They did that in GA and all of the crops went bad because those jobless American's rather sit on welfare then brake their back out in the hot fields and harvest watermelon, blueberries, etc.
They even started a Parole program to get convicts the opportunity and they walked off the job. So with the whole stop hiring illegals comes that our produce prices go up and crops go bad, Farmers are forced to do something else which has been already proven.
So anyone that says stop hiring illegals I expect you and your kind to take on these hard labor jobs so that we can do it. Don't just sit behind your computer because you have an air conditioned job and make statements that you can't even fulfill