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. mklsgl

    "an inarticulate reference" – As shocking as it is surprising!

    This uber-politicized immigration issue only further exemplifies our wonderful Divided States of America. Seems the "melting pot" is frozen.

    June 14, 2013 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  2. Peter

    Do you think the fact that most Hispanic immigrants are CATHOLIC has anything to do with it?

    June 14, 2013 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  3. rick kane

    Liberals hear a conservative say the word "fertility" and they get their feathers all ruffled. It is a fact that immigrants have higher fertility rates than native born Americans. Claiming that they have more intact families, however, seems a little outlandish.

    June 14, 2013 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  4. lcrane

    This is the same thing that was said when the Irish immigrated, the Chinese immigrated, the Jews immigrated, the Catholics immigrated, Decapodian's immigrated, etc. Same song. What verse is this now?

    June 14, 2013 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  5. Dallas

    Perhaps I have given Jeb more credit than he deserves. What a stupid insensitive thing to say. Keep this up Jeb and we'll have to put you in the Clown Car along with Rubio, Cruz, Santorum, Palin, Bachmann and Paul.

    June 14, 2013 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  6. Fair is Fair


    "mmigrants were "more fertile"" republicans continue to say STUPID remarks. Keep up the good work. Clinton 2012 Si.
    Ummmmmmmm... it's already 2013... Si, it really is.

    June 14, 2013 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  7. Snarky MacFee

    Oh no, please tell me he did NOT speak an old sterotype! Now, a great deal of them come from Catholic upbringings when does lend to larger families, but that is true no matter your heritage. They just keep opening their mouths and adding fuel to the stupidity. I am sure he meant no harm by it, but showed little judgement in its pronouncement.

    June 14, 2013 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  8. rosethornne

    Republican speech preparation:
    1. Open mouth
    2. Insert foot
    3. Hop out on stage

    June 14, 2013 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  9. steve

    Fertility rates among people are measured by the US government, and he is factually correct.

    June 14, 2013 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  10. bjd1020

    Youre right Jeb, Unfortunately for me, a natural born american cant afford to be more fertile because I am currently being taxed to death to support programs for these fertile minorities.......they will never get it....they just dont have the capacity to think beyond two moves....

    June 14, 2013 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  11. Dano

    It's easy to blame the baby boomers for SSI problems, but it's not like this mass influx of retirees comes as a suprise. Each administration & Congress has kicked the can down the road until now we have a full blown crises. Other reasons that SSI is paying out more than it brings in has to do with wages being stagnant for the last 20+ years, the great recession, and lowering the percentage paid into SSI during this slowdown.

    June 14, 2013 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  12. Maran

    Yeah, more fertile alright. They breed like rabbits so they can have all these brats to stay in thecountry! Just another burden on the US taxpayer!

    June 14, 2013 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  13. jeff

    "more fertile" and thus a great benefit to American society." Did he mean to say "get great benefits"?

    June 14, 2013 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  14. Michael

    The next you'll see is people demanding that "immigrants" be forced into a fixed birth rate, similar to what Japan did a couple of decades ago. After your 1.5 children, Big Jose and The Twins get the knife ... see how far that gets ...

    June 14, 2013 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  15. tutuvabene

    Looks like Jeb suffers from foot in mouth disease.

    June 14, 2013 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  16. Jim Curry

    If this is true, had all of the immigrants remained in their own country, it would be a Taj Mahal, an economic superpower. Nice try Jeb Bush. You just want them to remain in the USA to work on your daddy's ranch !

    June 14, 2013 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  17. john

    His comments are ludicrous and what he will not tell you is we're getting the trash, not the educated elite of Mexico and Latin America. We are absorbing the ones the educated persons of Mexico are only to happy to get ride of.

    I live in Houston where we are drowning in never ending hordes of illegal aliens. Tell them to learn English? It won't happen my friend. They have no interest in learning it. Spanish only. And we've had countless local citizens killed by their drunk drivers, killed by home invasions, and many of them now on death row for capital murders.

    June 14, 2013 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  18. Chad

    Bush sees the future and Republicans are not in it.

    Can he bring the GOP back from the cliff's edge?

    Not likely.

    They are already too hateful, too extreme in their views, and too crazy to govern.

    June 14, 2013 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  19. David

    Wow, what a surprise: another insensitive statement made by a member of the GOP. If this were a one-time incident, I would dismiss it, but man-oh-man the statements seem to keep coming from one party: about rape (multiple politicians), w*tbacks (the Rep. from Alaska), gays (Ben Carson), the lazy 47% (Romney), etc.

    June 14, 2013 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  20. DJ Reality

    Boy, Boy I have never seen a political party shoot its self in the foot before. I mean this is new one for me. Are they really looking to get a republican in the White House in 2016? I really don't think that is going to happen and if they keep up this kind of thinking up it's looking like G.W. Gush will be the last republican president we'll ever have.

    June 14, 2013 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  21. Jonathan

    It's funny how Bush can make a well reasoned argument (albeit poorly articulated) and get crickets from the crowd, while Bachman receives cheers for breathing fire and hate. The GOP is not a reasonable crowd.

    June 14, 2013 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  22. Bobpitt

    @ John..

    I know some illegals, and let me tell you, as soon as they get of the train they find work, or they create their own, the reason that they are so entrepreneurial is because they don't get any help from anybody is a sink or swim situation. They also stimulated the economy by buying just about anything, furniture, clothes, cars, tools, etc.. I agree with Jed Bush..

    June 14, 2013 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  23. MGS

    And this guy wnats to run for President? Every time a Bush opens his mouth, he puts his foot in it. And if you're "W", you twist it. Better to stay silent and say nothing, than to open it and remove all doubt. Oh God...

    June 14, 2013 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  24. 1984 is here

    how can you get a fair view , when the giver of facts is bias, Obama a CENTRIST ? Did something happen overnight ? He won't even enforce the laws we have now and secure the border . His goal since he has been in office is to destroy the American way of life . You people are so blinded by race or partisanship you cannot or will not see the truth . I am an independent.......before you anti-American's start using hate speech , and bashing me . We cannot have reform without border security ...... but Obama says no, why ? Why does he allow Muslim terrorist into the country to bomb us , why is the irs harassing his enemies , WHY is he spying on all of us at this very moment ? Why is he trying to control the media , with the justice dept ? Why does his people keep showing up before congress and lying and you and the liberal press choose to ignore this ? Why does he want to take guns from the general public ?

    June 14, 2013 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  25. Fer Waika

    What he can not say is what kind of immigration is he talking about. Bringing the best of the world, scientist, businessmen, high skilled workers, etc has always been one of main the engines of the American success. the statistic is there. Fixing the "broken" immigration system probably means to Jeb, bring the good people and stop the others. I hope he gets in the next race.

    June 14, 2013 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
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