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. Jamal

    So what. It's true.

    June 14, 2013 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  2. Fair is Fair


    There's a simple solution to SS.. Make the rich and corporations pay their fair share of taxes.. ..
    There you have it – the "rich" should not only pay for my housing... my healhcare, my food, my spending money, my education... no, no, no... they should fund my retirement as well. Love it!!!!

    June 14, 2013 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  3. deb0155

    I'm sorry but this article just blows my mind.

    "First of all, 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." Excuse me, but those funds that were promised to seniors were funds that seniors have been contributing to all of their working years – the government owes us that money! It is the government who blatantly abused Social Security and Medicare for their own "interests" – funds that, again, the American taxpayer has been contributing to for years and years and is now gone due to our corrupt politiicans. And, now you have illegals who want to get a hold of it plus all of the welfare perks they're receiving from turning "baby making" into a business. And we have a politician who is telling us how wonderful they are because they're making babies because they're Catholic and family-oriented?! People if you believe that line – we all need a "knock on the head" to wake us up. Jeb Bush is telling us that we need illegals to help stimulate the economy! And, how is that? They send a lot of money back to their families in their respective countries and they're raping the welfare systemhere in the United States. The reason why a lot of Americans are not having babies is because we are responsible human beings who know that when you bring a child into this world – you are responsible for that child and that child costs a lot of money with medical, education, housing, clothing, food, etc., and we are not expecting our government to pay for that child – we want to support our own children!

    I am just in shock with this article. This is really what our government thinks of us – garbage - the American taxpayer is only here to clean up an illegal's life and vote for pandering politicians! This is definitely not the country I remember when I was young.

    June 14, 2013 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  4. SniffThis

    " Your own ideology contributed greatly to you becoming the architects of your demographic Armageddon."

    It is yours as well.

    I mean, people of color have done so well in their native lands, why not?

    June 14, 2013 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  5. davidfarrar

    JEB's argument is a red herring fallacy that would make some political sense for more "legal" immigration, but it certainly doesn't support, or justify, amnesty for "illegal" immigration. The fact that the corporate-dominated wing of the Republican Party is supporting amnesty simply is another illustration it can, and will, pursue its own political agenda regardless of which party it hides behind.

    ex animo

    June 14, 2013 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  6. Bob Ramos

    Immigrants are more fertile = Hispanics are better lovers.

    June 14, 2013 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  7. T Waarton

    "Make English a priority for becoming a citizen of ...MY Country"

    Yo, Home-time...

    How is your Iroquoain?

    Your Natchez?

    Your Tunica?

    Do you need to order "Rosetta Stone:Penutian"?

    June 14, 2013 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  8. cjklepper

    Soooooo, the Bush, some of us thought was the "smart" one just put his left foot in his mouth. Folks, there is and was never a "smart" Bush, and will never be. So, if the GOP has and is betting its leadership on a Bush, that says alot of the mentality of the party. The Bushes gained prominence in politics all due to money; money which the "dumber" GOPers have plenty of and gained through corruption and backslapping deals is all they have to offer our country. There's no such thing as a "smart" Republican nowadays. The last good, ethical Republican may have been Eisenhower since then the party's theoritical politics have been going downhill and scandalous. Reagan only got by with his popularity as a "has been" actor who surrounded himself with a bunch of puppeteers. Before his selections of puppeteers he selected a Bush for a running mate, that alone says alot of his intelligence. That same Bush got us into a war which spread and continues today. Out of respect for the elder Bush, Clinton let the first war go on; and, lo and behold, comes the younger Bush to avenge his father's stalemated war starts another war Do we want another Bush to start World War III?

    June 14, 2013 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  9. Areukiddingme?

    It's because the natural born american's don't get tax incentives to start a business like the immigrants do......we have less benefits than most foreigners.....WAKE UP AMERICA!!!............reward illegal behavior..GENIUS!!

    June 14, 2013 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  10. Lib.

    Anyway, can Jeb please find a way to background check all illegals coming here. It's not like we don't have enough criminals. And can you please check for incoming new illnesses. I believe that is one part of our legal system for new immigrants. I don't feel we should recruit illegals into our services. Lots of criminals in our prison who need to go.

    June 14, 2013 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  11. sc3441

    No more Anchor Babies.....we can't afford it. Shut the border now.

    June 14, 2013 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  12. Zahdio

    Maybe Jeb ought to immigrate to a more fertile region.

    June 14, 2013 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  13. Black Dynamite

    When Jeb Bush thinks, nothing happens........

    June 14, 2013 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  14. Dan

    What he said was incorrect, but if he meant we need more immigration to replace our aging workforce and people can then retire, he would have been correct,

    June 14, 2013 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  15. victor

    Get the super rich to pay their damn taxes and stop hiding it in other countries and SS will be OK!!! Then arrest them for tax evasion!!!!

    June 14, 2013 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  16. SniffThis

    Smells good.

    June 14, 2013 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  17. dirty Joe

    Isn't Jeb married to an immigrant?

    June 14, 2013 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  18. judith

    God Almighty! In a tremendously overpopulated world, this idiot thinks it's a good idea for more poor people to crank out lots of babies! Of course he's always had a life of absolute privilege, so he hasn't a clue.

    June 14, 2013 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  19. One L

    Like him or not, Jeb Bush is correct – this has been happening since baby boomers started retiring.

    June 14, 2013 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  20. Name

    Just what we need are more people having more babies. I guess 300 million people isn't enough and I guess some people won't be happy until we reach a billion or more and the whole country is wall to wall people and tract houses with little to no natural landscapes left.

    June 14, 2013 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  21. Balls of Steel

    Is he talking legal or non legal immigrants? The two have a different effect to our economy.

    June 14, 2013 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  22. rparker

    Fertility rate, how does he know this? I am sure he is talking about the birth rate which is entirely different.

    June 14, 2013 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  23. EG

    Sounds very much like a modern day slave master looking to breed more slaves for greater profit...."....play by our rules...."

    June 14, 2013 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  24. Melissa

    The bush sons should never ever be allowed in politics. Their father must be humiliated.

    June 14, 2013 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  25. girliegirl

    Yeah Jeb... that is because the more educated women get the less likely they are to have 100 freaking kids. You are already trying to dismantle the education system. More slaves for your workforce.

    June 14, 2013 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
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