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. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    I can appreciate why he said what he said, I like his ideas on immigration reform, but the way he said it was deplorable.

    June 14, 2013 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  2. cathstar

    Very strange way to give, which I guess is supposed to be, a "compliment."

    June 14, 2013 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  3. Name

    How well did the fcat do for you in Fla there gov ran more kids out that were born in the USA then helped

    June 14, 2013 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  4. MazeAndBlue

    "mmigrants were "more fertile"" republicans continue to say STUPID remarks. Keep up the good work. Clinton 2012 Si.

    June 14, 2013 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  5. john

    How can we have an influx of immigrants when we have no jobs to support them. It would make more sense to find ways to bring manufacturing and middle class jobs back to American and THEN bring in immigration to help fill the job voids. As is, havnig a bunch of immigrants coming in, without jobs to support them, would just mean more money paid out by the govt in subsidizing them. Makes no sense.

    June 14, 2013 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  6. erg

    They are absolutely for fertile. They haven't been eating GMO foods for the past 18 years like we have in the USA.

    June 14, 2013 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  7. Bob

    I see the father actually raised two boys with an IQ of 1/2. He is doing the GOP proud..HAAAAA

    June 14, 2013 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  8. Steveo

    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?
    I lean towards agreeing with you since a large number are Catholic and they tend to have larger families. The problem is how he said it! Since his wife is Latina, I believe he meant no harm but was careless with his words.

    June 14, 2013 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  9. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    "he had no idea how to compromise and pass bipartisan bills."
    How can you be bipartisan when the opposition stated that their number one goal was to make him a one-term President? Republicans have no intention on passing ANYTHING this President proposes. Let's see, we're up to 37 times the House has voted to repeal the ACA. Where are the JOBS bills coming out of Congress?

    June 14, 2013 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  10. Galactus93

    It sure did not take long for Jeb Bush to sound like an idiot. Most Americans have no problem with legal immigration. We need want our Federal Government to start enforcing the laws on illegal immigration. Secure the border and deport all illegal aliens. This is just more pandering for Senate Immigration bill that panders to special interest groups.

    June 14, 2013 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  11. Dave

    This made me cringe. I know he didn't mean it "like that," but jeez.

    June 14, 2013 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  12. Kris

    Sorry haters but this is true, especially Hispanic and African immigrants. Studies show they are more fertile. Not sure why Jeb Bush felt the need to say this. Some of his comments were spot-on and correct, and I personally believe we should only allow productive immigrants into the US- if they're going to be on gov't assistance, we don't need them. That is the truth and I think alot of Americans feel the same way.

    June 14, 2013 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  13. Fair is Fair

    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.
    Obama is no centrist – not even close. Clinton was a centrist (after he got his arse handed to him in '94)... Obama got his arse handed to him in '10 and sloughed it off as collateral damage. But let's play along... which president(s) were to the left of Obama if he's such a centrist?

    June 14, 2013 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  14. MagicPanties

    well, there goes any hope of 2016, too funny

    June 14, 2013 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  15. Dallas

    I gave Jeb more credit than perhaps he deserved. What a stupid, despicible thing to say. Shame on you Jeb. Keep this up and you'll soon be in the clown car with Palin, Rubio, Cruz, Paul, etc.

    June 14, 2013 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  16. MazeAndBlue

    Typo.. Clinton 2016 Si.

    June 14, 2013 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  17. Ordinary Average American

    This country needs population control, not more immigrants!

    June 14, 2013 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  18. Devin

    Does he not understand that the reason why immigrants generally have larger families are because of religious beliefs preventing the use of birth control? It has nothing to do with physical fertility. I was hoping that at least one Bush would have a brain, wishful thinking.

    June 14, 2013 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  19. pat

    If only the bush family was less fertile...

    June 14, 2013 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  20. Jim G

    "The problem lied" are you serious?

    June 14, 2013 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  21. Goondo

    maybe he should talk about net contribution... like taxes paid versus benefits received.

    June 14, 2013 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  22. Michele

    I agree with Jebby. It seems all they do is reproduce. It is likely an attempt at stealth conquest.......overwhelming by sheer numbers, at yet another reason NOT to grant 12 million criminals amnesty.

    June 14, 2013 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  23. Mr. Thanatos

    In other words, they are a benefit to our corporately owned agricultural fields.

    June 14, 2013 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  24. Wake up People!

    Is that like saying we blacks are better athletes and dancers......??? I mean it is the truth but wow.....

    June 14, 2013 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  25. Peter

    With Rush Limbaugh ("Terry Shaivo is alive"......"Michael J. Fox is faking his sickness"), Todd Aiken ("a rape victim is less likely to get pregnant") and now Jeb Bush, I guess we don't need actual medical experts anymore.

    June 14, 2013 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
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