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. Tenie

    The word should be prolific, not fertile, which si easy to be when you pay nothing. For Americans it is different. We have two sets of laws, Americans must obey, illegals don't have to, Americans must pay, illegals don't have to.

    June 14, 2013 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  2. Snagglepuss

    Good Bye 2016.

    June 14, 2013 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  3. concernedcitizen

    Having an influx of immigrants from a country whose culture has already shown to be a failure would be and is disastrous.

    It's simple: Mexicans leave Mexico because mexico sucks, because it's full of mexicans. Mexicans come to US, make US like Mexico, US sucks. simple. If mexicans are so awesome why have they repeatedly failed to make their country great? Because their culture sucks.

    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 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  4. idiocy

    Fertility in economic terms just means how many kids people have, not how easy it is for them to actually get pregnant.

    June 14, 2013 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  5. gop usa

    People like Bush, Rubio, McCain are traitors to the American worker and Taxpayer pandering to illegal Mexicans instead of trying to help true Americans with jobs, jobs, jobs........We should not be caring about the interests of illegal Mexicans and their needs,they will only hurt our job situation even worse and lower wages for the middleclass even further....... This is a slap in the face to all Americans and I am ashamed that some of the Gop thinks its ok to pander to illegal Mexicans while our nation is hurting. I am a conservative and will not spend one dollar helping anyone who stands for this illegal invasion bill to be re elected.....they are traitors to their gop base

    June 14, 2013 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  6. Sigi

    "Stef – How dare he pass off statistics as facts " EXACTLY 🙂

    June 14, 2013 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  7. Boytjie

    I guess Americans' bodies have "ways to try to shut that whole thing down".

    June 14, 2013 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  8. ugh

    Obama – "There are 53 states.". Actually, Jeb Bush's statement is 100% correct – and it is backed by factual data. CNN – are you reding between the lines on this one? To my knowledge, there are not 53 states!

    June 14, 2013 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  9. Johnny

    This is nothing more than CNN seeing and opening to take a gratuitous low blow at a Bush. Everyone know where the Bush family stands on immigration reform and to suggest they are in anyway trying to disrespectful is just an Obamamania groupie who hates anything and anyone conservative.

    June 14, 2013 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  10. Sniffit

    "Is he talking about all immigrants?? Because the ones around me ARE very fertile..... Each female has another baby every 9 -12 months....... And btw, they aren't Latino....."

    Ever heard the term "Irish twins" hehe?

    June 14, 2013 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  11. SingAPsalm

    Well, Americans have been through hardships and love their families too. I was very fertile during my childbearing years, but at least I had sense enough to use birth control and limit the number of children I had to what my husband and I could afford. I am disgusted that some people think that others who work hard and pay taxes owe them a living because they were too irresponsible to not have children they couldn't afford.

    June 14, 2013 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  12. Andrey

    Sounds like pyramid building to me.

    June 14, 2013 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  13. mfstout

    I love the GOP. They're the gift that keeps on giving. Every time one of them speaks, the ignorance flows. Nice going, Jeb. Good luck with that Presidential campaign.

    June 14, 2013 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  14. Searcher

    The GOP may not like it, but DEMOGRAPHICS will determine politics, not the other way around. Did you notice that "Non-Hispanic whites" have a DECREASE in population? The non-Hispanic whites can't keep up, and JEB (married to a Colombian woman) certainly knows this......

    June 14, 2013 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  15. Phil in the Blanks

    I wonder if his Latino wife has been whispering all these sweet NOTHINGS in his ear?

    June 14, 2013 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  16. Cheo

    Lets tell it like it is...its just fear,fear than in 50 years or so minorities will be the great majority and those who now are in now in control will become the minority and will loose their power and control.

    June 14, 2013 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  17. aaron

    Has Jeb Bush ever heard of OVERPOPULATION or considered the environmental effects of uncontrolled population growth? This is literally the exact opposite of what we need. It seems he has such a tunnel-visioned perspective on this issue that he couldn't even think of a negative effect caused by immigration reform.

    June 14, 2013 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  18. Sniffit

    Hey, Jebby, want Americans to start reproducing faster again? STOP KILLING THE MIDDLE CLASS.

    June 14, 2013 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  19. Ibrahim

    Just make it happens this time

    June 14, 2013 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  20. Al

    More fertile. As in compost for increased profits for the business suits' economic garden?

    June 14, 2013 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  21. Debbie

    Geez I thought Jeb had more communications skills than GWB. Apparently not.

    June 14, 2013 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  22. Mary

    Well with a statement like that, there's another one we don't have to worry about in 4 years' time. Foot in mouth Sounds like something from the 20's. Ya Ma..they're more fertile..let's keep t'em.. Geesh. Give me a break.

    June 14, 2013 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  23. Peaver

    I agree with Bush comprehensive immigration reform approach which provides undocumented immigrants with a path to citizenship while promoting mutual prosperity opportunities for native Americans and future citizens alike.

    I also believe that non-citizen immigrants should pay an Immigration payroll tax after applying for citizenship or working VISA until citizenship is granted. This could offset social security/Medicare deficits as well as pay for any punitive fines accumulated for their stay over the years.

    June 14, 2013 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  24. Dan

    The measure of the average number of children per woman is the fertility rate, which is much higher among Hispanic immigrants, and especially illegal immigrants. The fertility rate in Mexico has dropped very quickly, but it's been a much slower drop in the lowest class that is illegally immigrating here.

    June 14, 2013 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  25. philip

    Just another silly gotcha. From silly CNN.

    June 14, 2013 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
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