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. DAN

    All part of the plan.

    June 14, 2013 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  2. CrystalClear

    Jeb's plan is to have fertile immigrants expand the tax base to support the boomers retirement. Genius!

    June 14, 2013 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  3. Josh

    Apparently liberals don't believe in facts when they are stated by Republicans. I thought they were supposed to be the "smart party"... Or maybe they just read the title and didn't bother to read the article itself. Probably that one. "OOOOOOOoooooo the title of that article seems to suggest I can call a Republican politician stup id, I'll go ahead and jump right into that one."

    June 14, 2013 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  4. JJ236

    The anchor baby thing has long ago documented this.

    June 14, 2013 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  5. rc roeder

    Well Jeb, you just shot yourself in the foot.

    June 14, 2013 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  6. Junior

    You know, he's got a valid point. You may not like how he said it but nonetheless, I think he's right.

    And Bachmann, please, I'm begging you now, please keep your pie hole shut. Pretty please, with sugar.

    June 14, 2013 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  7. cedar rapids

    'It is a fact that immigrants have higher fertility rates than native born Americans'

    I can see bigger families because they are mainly catholic but not sure how you can claim they are more fertile.

    June 14, 2013 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  8. Ayah Dawood

    Most acts of terror and a sizable portion of the crimes are committed by immigrants. Not to mention a drain on the country's welfare programs. Give the American people real, verifiable statistics on how much these immigrants cost Americans vs. how much they improve the economy. I think we are underwater on this investment.

    June 14, 2013 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  9. cedar rapids

    'Jay – You make me laugh. Obama was ranked the most liberal senator in 2008.'

    By whom? And before or after his name was mentioned as presidential candidate?

    June 14, 2013 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  10. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Ummmmmmmm... it's already 2013... Si, it really is
    That was funny!

    June 14, 2013 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  11. coderjones

    he's right – you european immigrants came here and haven't stopped reproducing yet........

    June 14, 2013 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  12. gladiatorgrl

    WOW – just WOW

    June 14, 2013 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  13. mst3krulz

    Speaking as someone who has been trying for 5+ years to get pregnant, perhaps we could take the approach of lobbying for insurance companies to start covering some of the fertility treatments so that native-born Americans CAN have improved fertility? The data does speak for itself here on the fertility rates per ethnic group.

    June 14, 2013 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  14. Hoosier53

    Oh, please. Mis-speak makes CNN headlines? Here's another one for you – ask the president how many states there are and see if he knows!

    June 14, 2013 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  15. Miked

    What does this say to native-born Americans? That, unlike other countries, we are being brain-washed to believe that only money can by buy you the American-dream. It's just stuff, it end's up only owning the owner. Interacting with other cultures can teach us many things, just as much as what we can teach them. One world with no imaginary boundaries of monetary control.

    June 14, 2013 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  16. gatorfanatic

    and THAT'S why we referred to him as Govenor DUH in Florida

    June 14, 2013 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  17. DJ in Texas

    I can tel he meant no "harm" in what he said, but it did come out wong. I'm more concerned that the audiencewere silent with hi remarks and plan vs. Mihele Bachman remarks. Smart Reublicans think more like Mr. Bush as they know the demographics are changing. But people like Ms. Bachman aren't willing to compromise to get something done.

    I have yet to hear what their plan is. What is "their solution" to the issue? Depot everybody?? Please let us know.

    June 14, 2013 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  18. Anonymous

    Sure they're more "fertile" . That's easy when someone else is picking up the tab for it!

    June 14, 2013 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  19. Anie

    There are several problems with the idea of welcoming "more fertile" populations into our society. 1: As Bush said, We need a pyramid scam to keep SS running. Not only are we saddling future generations with an obligation, we need to grow, as a population, to unsustainable levels to keep it up. 2: Immigrant populations cram themselves into housing. I have a Pakistani family living above me with 8 people in a 2-bedroom apt. Do you really think the property tax paid In their rent is appropriate for 6 kids in the public school system? Now multiply that by the 10s of thousands of families who are living the same way. Both of these points show major flaws in the "let 'em breed non-stop" thinking.

    June 14, 2013 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  20. DeeWA2013

    Well, at first I thought, 'What the hell?' BUT now that I've got in context, what he said makes sense. Caucasian Americans after WWII decided somehow that once you turn 18 you go get your own place, independence. BUT, the lack of the EXTENDED family has made for splits, children being raised by a single mother, or father, no grandparents there to fill the gaps. People LEARN from their elders... So in that regard, yes Mr Bush is correct.

    June 14, 2013 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  21. FT

    I agree with Jeb Bush 100%. Immigrants create far more jobs than they take from and are the rejuvenating force of the American engine. Immigration is a major component of the Social Security insolvency problem. As for his remarks regarding fertility, he was not talking about Latino immigration, but immigration from Latin America, China, India, Eastern Europe, Middle East, etc. All immigration groups when compared with second and earlier generation of Americans are more fertile, have much more stable homes, and are harder working. It's a fact.,

    June 14, 2013 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  22. Nc_mike

    How cow! Did he really say that? Maybe he has reports on implantation rates due the immigrants not having been as subject to as much poisoning with the additives in US food goods since birth, but alas, it sounds like another case of GOP shoe-in-mouth disease – trying to put a positive spin on it or not, factual or not, politically inept.

    June 14, 2013 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  23. al

    Conservatives listened in silence. What a surprise. All conservatives want to do is try to return America to the 1950's. they have no ideas, no thoughts on how to deal with today's issues. They all need to just go away. At least what Bush stated makes some sense.

    June 14, 2013 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  24. Coolio Unroolio

    "Fertility" refers to the capability to produce offspring. It is commonly misused to describe "birth rate." While the Bush boys should never be expected to be grammarians, this word choice should surprise no one. Does it "prove" Jeb is a racist? Probably not. Does it help any political ambitions he might have? Probably not. Liberals and Conservatives are largely too biased to understand the true reasons and ramifications of this perceived gaffe, or lack thereof.

    June 14, 2013 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  25. lol

    I get it now. To fix SS, we have to flood the US workforce with underpaid, but taxable immigrants who make even more taxable offspring than the generations of Americans who've been here for a while and also try to kill off some of the dying SS collecting people who are sucking the system dry. I guess when you look at it from a gardening perspective, it all makes sense. Open all the borders already...Greencards for everyone!

    June 14, 2013 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13