June 14th, 2013
11:16 AM ET
10 years ago

Jeb Bush, arguing for immigration reform, says immigrants 'more fertile'

Washington (CNN) – Making an argument for overhauling the nation's immigration system Friday to a crowd of conservative activists, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush claimed immigrants were "more fertile" and thus a great benefit to American society.

His remark appeared to be an inarticulate reference to immigrants' fertility rates, which data show are higher than native-born Americans.

"Immigrants create far more businesses than native-born Americans over the last 20 years. Immigrants are more fertile, and they love families, and they have more intact families, and they bring a younger population. Immigrants create an engine of economic prosperity," Bush said at the annual Faith and Freedom conference in the nation's capital.

He prefaced his remarks with an analysis of America's demographic struggles, saying that the rate of Americans entering retirement couldn't be sustained by the current size of the workforce. Economists have long warned that government programs for seniors like Social Security and Medicare face long-term funding problems.

Last year, trustees projected Social Security could pay promised benefits in full through 2036, after which the program could only afford to pay 77% of them. Social Security has already begun paying out more in benefits than it takes in from workers' payroll taxes.

Bush argued Friday the problem lay in an imbalance between working Americans paying taxes and the number of older Americans – living longer – who have been promised government support in their retirement.

"We're going to have fewer workers taking care of a larger number of people the country has a social contract with to be able to allow them to retire with dignity and purpose," Bush said. "We cannot do that with the fertility rates that we have in our country. We're below break-even today."

Part of the solution, he said, was encouraging more legal immigration that would add people to the workforce, thereby creating more payroll tax revenue.

"The one way that we can rebuild the demographic pyramid is to fix a broken immigration system to allow for people to come and learn English and play by our rules, to embrace our values and to pursue their dreams in our country with a vengeance to create more opportunities for all of us," said Bush, a longtime proponent for comprehensive immigration reform.

"This is a conservative idea," he continued. "If we do this we will rebuild our country in a way that will allow us to grow. If we don't do it we will be in decline, since productivity of this country is dependent upon young people who are equipped to work hard."

Bush, unlike many Republicans, has backed a pathway to legal status for undocumented immigrants, provided they pay fines and learn English. Such measures have been staunchly opposed by conservatives, who say allowing people who came to the United States illegally to remain here amounts to amnesty.

Bush's arguments for immigration reform were met with near silence from the conservative crowd Friday, and following his speech the former Florida governor received a polite standing ovation. Comparatively, Rep. Michele Bachmann, who used parts of her speech to decry the bill backed by a bipartisan group of eight senators as "amnesty" for undocumented immigrants, received loud applause.

Bush, who is speculated to be considering a run for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, made his remarks the same week U.S. census data indicated rapid demographic changes, including showing for the first time that more non-Hispanic Whites died last year than were born.

The data also showed that Asians were the nation's fastest-growing demographic group, rising in population 2.9% last year. The Hispanic population grew by 2.2%, which the Census Bureau primarily attributed to a greater number of births than deaths.

In total, non-Hispanic Whites were the only racial group to have a negative rate of "natural increase" last year – meaning there were more deaths than births. Hispanics had 872,840 more births than deaths; African-Americans had 435,182; and Asians had 211,537.

CNN's Peter Hamby and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.

Here's a glimpse of how Twitter users reacted to Bush's comment:

Filed under: Immigration • Jeb Bush
soundoff (311 Responses)
  1. rs

    What is wrong with the GOP? What is their obsession with reproduction?

    June 14, 2013 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  2. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    "This is a conservative idea,"
    You are absolutely right Jeb. It's a conservative idea that our CENTRIST President is pushing. But will it pass? If Pres. Barack Obama is proposing it, republicans don't want anything to do with it.

    June 14, 2013 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  3. PK

    Say it. They are Catholic and do not believe in birth control.

    June 14, 2013 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  4. JustMe

    It's not that they're more fertile, it's that most of them are Catholic and don't practice birth control.

    June 14, 2013 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  5. Boo

    This planet is already OVER-POPULATED.

    June 14, 2013 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  6. Brian

    And by 2050, the echo boom generation will be entrenched in the workforce and social security will again take in more than it pays out. This temporary shortfall is just an excuse to reduce benefits for those of us who have worked and paid in to the system all our lives.

    June 14, 2013 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  7. Randall

    If Jeb Bush is the Smart Bush boy, that is not saying much. As a Floridian, I can say Jeb Bush cut taxes on the wealthy and cut benefits for the needy and as the Education Governor saw a decline in Florida secondary education. If Jeb Bush is the Republican Presidential Candidate in 2016, the American voter would have to be terminally stupid to voter for him. But terminal stupidity is a requirement for members of the GOP.

    June 14, 2013 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  8. Jack Mackie

    Good to see that Jeb has given up all hope for the Presidency.

    June 14, 2013 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  9. Jay

    "CENTRIST President"

    You make me laugh. Obama was ranked the most liberal senator in 2008. He only managed to pass bills under a supermajority House and Senate. Once Republicans took the House, he had no idea how to compromise and pass bipartisan bills. 4.5 years later and he's only now understanding that only liberal support won't get him anywhere.

    June 14, 2013 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  10. jk

    As Barbara Bush said " We have had ENOUGH Bush's in politics..... time to go away "Jeb"..... back to them thar hills..... and stay there.

    June 14, 2013 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  11. mpouxesas

    IIs this...."legitimate" fertilization?

    June 14, 2013 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  12. B. McKay

    More fertile? Really? Perhaps it's because us North Americans see children as an impediment to our "entitled" lifestyle.

    June 14, 2013 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  13. jonvi

    The republicans should self impose a self ban on public speaking.

    June 14, 2013 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  14. DirtyHeat

    All he said is that immigrants have more children than native born Americans, which is a fact, and that is somehow a news story according to CNN?

    June 14, 2013 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  15. works4me

    It must be in the air and water...

    June 14, 2013 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  16. nitrous

    Just when I thought he was the smarter one.

    June 14, 2013 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  17. Matt

    While inarticulate he is 100% correct. Immigrants will fix our SS and MED problems.

    June 14, 2013 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  18. dean morse

    More "fertile"? Is he crazy? He is saying that the immigrant population has more sex? Produces more babies and those babies can grow up to have jobs to support the aging population? That is this educated mans logic. Incredible. I am sure that the immigrants will be very pleased to be viewed as "more fertile". Vote for the GOP. They have some real insight to how to solve Americas issues.

    June 14, 2013 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  19. NorCalMojo

    More Catholic anyway.

    June 14, 2013 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  20. us_1776

    What is it with Republicans fascination with women's reproductive systems?

    These guys have a weird fetish.


    June 14, 2013 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  21. Jeb

    Republicans have seen the future, and they're not in it.

    June 14, 2013 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  22. Joe Mama

    Obviously RS only read the headline and not the article. He said this is an advantage as they we need more younger people to support the aging baby boomers.

    CNN used the headline title in a manner that would obviously confuse readers and lead them to believe something else as seen by the first response. The political unit for CNN is obviously a left leaning unit.

    June 14, 2013 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  23. Sean

    So basically...he tried to say something nice, but it came out funky?

    June 14, 2013 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  24. truthbetold

    And everybody wonders how Obama won TWICE!! ha

    June 14, 2013 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  25. Marie MD

    @rs, maybe deep down all these rethugs want to be women since they can't control us.
    That remark is a veiled remark. Didn't some rethug or somebody like pat robertson say during the 2008(?) or 2012(?) campaign say something like white people need to start having more children?
    I hope he is not thinking of running for president because he just had his oops moment.

    June 14, 2013 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
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