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. amandano2

    I'm in favor of immigration reform, but Bush's reasoning doesn't totally make sense. Yes, it's true that we are going to have a problem very soon of not enough workers trying to support a large number of retirees. But adding more workers is only half of the solution. Without jobs to employ those workers, we haven't fixed the problem, but rather, we've made it even worse. There are already too many people of working age and not enough jobs to go around. Adding more people of working age makes the situation even worse. What the government needs to start considering isn't just how to add more people, but how to add more well paying jobs. McJobs aren't going to cut it. If people are living off of McJobs, they're going to be getting government assistance themselves, which means that just about everything they're paying in, they're taking right back out (and then some, in some cases). Adding younger people to the population to support the older people is only half of the solution. And without the other half of the solution (jobs), it's no solution at all, but a serious problem.

    June 14, 2013 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  2. db

    Johnny, yes we do know where the Bush's stand on immigration. About 8 years ago Bush Jr was for granting amnesty to the illegal immigrants in the country at that time just like Reagan did.

    What we need to do is clamp down on all the employers that hire these people and levy heavy fines for everyone they hire and jail the repeat offenders. Once the employers learn it is more costly to hire them that would deter the problem of illegal immigration.

    June 14, 2013 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  3. PamJ

    Well isn't that a turnabout! In the 70's world health experts and the U.S. government worried about over population.
    They shoved birth control down the throat of every woman they could get to take them.
    Way to powerful birth control too boot! Suppressing the population growth of natural born citizens.

    June 14, 2013 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  4. M.E.

    I think the key here is youth "who are willing to work hard." Many American-born citizens have worked hard all of their lives and lived by the code that you don't have more children than you can afford. Then there are pockets of people who were never taught the value of hard work or "earning your keep." This creates a cycle of people depending on others for their keep, and procreating without the expectation of paying for their own offspring, and the offspring is not raised to want to work. A non-working society ends up taking OUT of the system rather than being productive taxpayers who can pay into the system and provide retirees with the social security they have earned.

    June 14, 2013 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  5. rschier

    The Bush family sounds far better when keeping their mouths closed.

    June 14, 2013 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  6. Eli Cabelly

    This guy is supposed to be one of the more electable GOP candidates for 2016.

    June 14, 2013 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  7. ThatsRight

    If it's a statistical fact, and as the article claims, is supported by data – what makes it "inarticulate" to say it??

    "His remark appeared to be an inarticulate reference to immigrants' fertility rates, which data show are higher than native-born Americans."

    June 14, 2013 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  8. Pffft

    Geez we get caught up in the stupidest things and miss the main point. Nothing he said was incorrect, and since when is fertility an insult? The data supports his hypothesis, so what's so insulting about that? I'm not a fan of any of the Bush clan, but for cripe sake people stop looking for new reasons to be offended and start listening to IDEAS that might just be offering some real solutions to real problems. I don't see being called "fertile" a real problem, particularly when the subject is population growth and its impact on Social Security AND it's the truth! I'm a liberal independent but geez, sometimes it's embarrassing to see the stupid stuff we get worked about. The media feeds you your latest outrage and you always bite, every time.

    June 14, 2013 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  9. Dumbpolitics

    The smartest one in that family was the dog who ran away from home.

    June 14, 2013 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  10. mcgtruth

    the world is overpopulated. The USA is overpopulated. Our economy can't depend on a growing population.

    June 14, 2013 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  11. fantom62

    Being a good solid Florida Republican I have to say you are part of the problem with the republican party. We have hard working Americans that have fought for our country that can't work because of the 11 or so million Law breaking illegal immigrants that are here. If the laws we the people set in motion years ago were inforced we wouldn't have this mess. Your looking for votes not solutions. We the people have paid and paid and got debt and chaos from you politicians. You want to get votes? Stand up and fight for the Americans that built this country and deport these law breaking illegals. How can they be better than the people that are supporting them here in the US. They are criminals and should be treated as such. What other laws that they don't like will they break? DEPORT them, confiscate everything they aquired while here illegally and sell it, use the money for legal immigrants.

    June 14, 2013 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  12. Rudy NYC

    Mama must have seen it coming. She told usw she was tired of seeing Bushes in politics.

    June 14, 2013 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  13. Annie

    What's the big deal? He's right!!

    June 14, 2013 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  14. evan

    Jeb Bush doesn't have a future in politics. His best bet is to write a book about how he survived growing up in the Bush household.

    June 14, 2013 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  15. JrzygirlLA

    His wife is the Mexican-born daughter of migrant worker. That might explain why he's more immigrant-friendly than his fellow Republicans.

    June 14, 2013 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  16. McBob79

    Such backward thinking. If the concern is paying for government services then for God sake don't bring in millions more who will immediately apply for governments assistance. Bring in highly skilled labor and college grads!

    June 14, 2013 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  17. Joan Wheeler

    Jeb has it backwards: What we need is more Americans getting jobs and paying into the SS system, not more emmigrants coming in and taking jobs away from Americans. I have nothing against emmigrants, per se, but my bumper sticker says, "Jobs for Americans first!" What's our unemployment rate again??? Let's take care of our own problems first, then we can open up the country to others.

    June 14, 2013 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  18. Grant

    I don't agree that immigrants are more fertile... and if you are talking about Hispanics, most of them are Catholic which highly encourages families and reproduction / the non use of contraception. A high percentage of young white couples are more serious about "making it" and are having less children, later in life.

    June 14, 2013 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  19. Oh Brother

    As usual, the eye-catching quote in the headline fails to capture the speaker's point. It's just another "You didn't build that"

    June 14, 2013 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  20. Evangenital

    Are we ready for another one?

    June 14, 2013 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  21. bear

    This is what our media has come down to. Taking something somebody says and twisting it to make it into a scandal. This same article says:

    "Immigrants have higher fertility rates" Bush says, "Immigrants are more fertile". Looks like he just said the truth and did it as he was making a case for higher immigration. I do not want another Bush as President and would not vote for him, but the media disgusts me with how they focus on this stupid stuff and do not cover things that matter.

    June 14, 2013 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  22. Susan

    We also need more immigrant (middle class) Americans to help pay for our unfunded wars, health care, and government salaries too–don't forget.

    June 14, 2013 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  23. DirtyHeat

    I love how in the last few weeks we have found out that the IRS is targeting certain groups, our government is spying on us and the state department is being run like a frat house, yet all of you liberals are most outraged by an innocent comment made by a Republican.

    All he was saying is immigrants seem to be having more children than native born people. He may not have worded in the best way possible but it is insane how THIS is the story pick to jump all over.

    June 14, 2013 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  24. Thai Pham

    Another "Bush-ism".... thought that left with George Bush. LOL.

    June 14, 2013 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  25. BIgSir

    I'm Jeb Bush and I need your vote to get elected. What would you like to hear?

    June 14, 2013 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
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