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. Grinning Libber

    What did his Mommy say?
    "No more Bushes."
    Boy was she correct.

    June 14, 2013 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  2. KShanks

    When you get paid to have babies, why not?
    What happens when tax payers can't pay for them all?

    June 14, 2013 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  3. Ed

    Can there still be anyone out there who clings to the claim that CNN is politically neutral and doesn't have an agenda? Look at this article and think about it.

    Look at the things Bush said about immigrants:

    1. They create far more businesses than native-born Americans over the last 20 years.
    2. They are more fertile
    3. They love families
    4. They have more intact families
    5. They bring a younger population.
    6. They create an engine of economic prosperity

    Four very positive comments, one neutral (younger population), and one awkward ("fertile"). So which one makes the headline? Which one is the focus?

    You could see an article like this accurately titled "Bush pushes for immigration reform." 'Bush praises immigrants." "Bush bucks party on immigration reform." "Bush says immigrants create an engine of economic prosperity." "Bush lauds immigrants' family values."

    But, no, those would be neutral or even - perish the thought - positive.

    We talk about what this country needs. We say we need political reform, and that's true. But even more we need journalism reform. Most of the media slants (or leaps) left. That portion which doesn't slants (or leaps) right. So Americans get their news filtered, and form their opinions on slanted information.


    June 14, 2013 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  4. Bob

    The birth rate for Mexican nationals in the US is higher than it is in Mexico. However, Mexico will be in the same boat the US is in now by 2050, so they too will need more immigration to sustain themselves.

    June 14, 2013 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  5. Julie

    I haven't voted republican in years, and am not generally a Bush family fan, but Jeb's got it right. A republican who wants to actually win the presidency today simply will not do it by catering to the conservative base. They've got to try and drag the conservatives into a middle ground.

    June 14, 2013 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  6. zaphed

    oh yes he has first hand experience. crap

    June 14, 2013 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  7. brads2sense

    Translation: "Upcoming Latinos will be supporting Social Security and they're my new voting bloc so I need to look like I like them now."

    June 14, 2013 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  8. Deni

    Hysterical! Conservatives cannot help speak what they are thinking particularly when it supports their distinct and unfair prejudices. They have a total lack of class, control, and respect for others, twisting and distorting facts while attempting to frame them in an acceptable manner. Ignorance and poor communication skills know no socioeconomic boundaries as evidenced once again in the family Bush.

    June 14, 2013 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  9. sly

    The Latin Americans immigrants are also mostly Christian Catholics, so they dont believe in birth control or abortion, leading to massive overpopulation of this earth.

    But it is refreshing to hear some more dumb Bush comments – it's been a few years since GW has been advised to stay completely out of the public eye for the rest of his life.

    June 14, 2013 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  10. Jeff

    He speaks the truth....every Mexican family I have seen is terribly poor, and has WAY too many kids.

    June 14, 2013 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  11. Snehashis Roy

    Very well thought balance definition of how to balance the society and birth rate to get the work force going. With all the hard work todays older community has done for our country they are not getting enough support in their life. If all things works right with bipartisan support and these 11 million workforce starts working legally and pay taxes and support the program to fund government to help the program going for the future, I believe we all can come back to the track where once America was proud for. Products made in America by American workforce, quality maintained accordingly, not dependent on any foreign countries cheap labor and exploitation and all those things we do not like but have to deal with it because of the economic turmoil. So why not we all being proud American give it a try to make things American way and the best way World has seen it before. God bless America.

    June 14, 2013 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  12. Bob

    The demographic shift is undeniable, unless you are most Republicans.

    In the face of a rapidly changing U.S. electorate, Republicans will continue to move further and further to the extreme right, alienating everyone in the process.

    Bush sees the future and his party is not in it.

    June 14, 2013 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  13. Bob

    Just another Bush Family Evil Empire fool.

    June 14, 2013 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  14. LeeCMH

    Mr Bush should be careful using the fertility argument.

    I've heard that argument posed many times for the decades when reactionaries were trying to foment fear of other races.

    The argument goes: They are birthin' more babies than us and will soon take over by virtue of their sheer numbers.

    June 14, 2013 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  15. myway

    This time around potential GOP presidential candidates are practicing how to put their foot into their mouths early. Nice going Jeb. I'm sure immigrants and their sympathizers are pleased you have such a deep understanding of their respective cultures. Btw, Russia is suffering from negative population growth for decades. Does that mean Russian immigrants are not welcome here? It looks like you taylored your remarks for the intended audience. However, it's not helpful when leaders reinforce across the board stereotypes, no matter how naive the listeners are presumed to be.

    June 14, 2013 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  16. gager

    MOre fertile...what nonsense. The american individual is as fertile as anyone if they take off our handcuffs.

    June 14, 2013 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  17. lol

    Uncle Sam to Mexico: We want your wombs!

    June 14, 2013 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  18. snowboarder

    most illegal immigrants are uneducated and it is well known that the uneducated class reproduces at a higher rate than the educated class.

    June 14, 2013 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  19. suur kurat

    The white Americans made a decision already in 1965 to turn their nation into a society with a nonwhite majority. That is why the US Congress passed the 1965 Immigration Act at a time when the US society was over 90 % white. Soon the US society will be majority nonwhite just as the whites wanted it to be in 1965.

    No need to weep for the passing of white America because this is the fate our parents wanted for us when they voted for Lyndon Johnson instead of Barry Goldwater back in 1964.

    June 14, 2013 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  20. concernedcitizen

    1. Hispanics are not "more fertile". They don't use contraception. So they are more prolific in pregnancies, but not biologically more fertile.

    2. Having an influx of immigrants from a country whose culture has already shown to be a failure would be and is disastrous. NOTE: culture, not race. Hispanics that assimilate and get education are as equally capable as any American. It is the culture that has failed in Mexico, Cuba and other latin american countries.

    June 14, 2013 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  21. Valerie

    They aren't "more fertile"- they are just less likely to use birth control. What a truly idiotic comment to make!

    June 14, 2013 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  22. YeahRight

    The government also pays them to have babies, where most middle class American's can't afford to raise kids and know that it's wrong to expect someone else to pay the cost.

    June 14, 2013 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  23. Liberalbill

    Of coure he did not mean to say it like that. It's exactly like the "they didn't build it" comment that the POTUS made when talking about infrastructure. Liberal should leave Jeb alone on this one and READ what he meant just like the conservatives should have read what Obama meant. Partisanship is U-G-L-Y!

    June 14, 2013 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  24. Maria Martin

    Bravo Mr. Jeb Bush. Finally you said something intelligent!! Yes if we continue in this trend illegals eventually will leave this country and try somewhere else. Yes they are a younger population and yes they love children and families, they stick together because they have known poverty, wars, revolutions and all kinds of troubles and yes they have a dream like us, to have and to create a better life for themselves and their children. It is up to us to recognize that if we do not integrate them we will hurt our economy and hurt ourselves.

    June 14, 2013 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  25. SanDiegoWatch

    The United States is our HOME.

    If someone breaks in your HOME to live there, force you to take care of them, what do you do?


    The U.S. Government is supposed to be protecting the welfare of Americans, not criminals.

    June 14, 2013 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
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