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. Ed1

    It's not that they are more fertile they know the US tax payers will pay for every child they have in the U.S. and also the ones that don't live here too.

    We are way to easy no wonder they want to come here.

    June 14, 2013 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  2. Dan

    Yeah Right!! and they WILL work for a LOT LESS. Right, Jeb! Thus further destroying the middle class who have made this country great. Typical GOP THINKING.

    June 14, 2013 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  3. clem kadiddle

    Jeb Bush Presidential material NOT!

    June 14, 2013 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  4. ted

    Remember everyone, Jeb is the "Smart" one.

    June 14, 2013 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  5. Cogsboy

    Asking the GOP to reconsider their stance on anything is like asking a leopard to change its spots. The GOP are not known to be open minded, but rather find ways to be dominant and stoic to give off the appearance of being superior.

    June 14, 2013 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  6. deb0155

    This is not about being Catholic or more fertile – this is about anchor babies and all of the "perks" an anchor baby brings with it: food stamps, a check every month for each baby, Section 8, free medical, and a free education - and all at the American taxpayers' expense! The illegals do not want to learn English, they do not want to assimilate, they want all of the perks but do not want to support the United States. They have broken the law and Jeb Bush – you should not be praising them – you should work on getting them out of the United States! Again, they have broken the law!

    I wish that our politicians would defend American citizens (their fellow countrymen) the way they defend illegals in this country!

    June 14, 2013 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  7. WhereIsPalin

    Get ready for the ever present politician's "what I meant to say".

    June 14, 2013 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  8. Fubarack

    I think he is confusing biology with a social financial reward for having many children.

    June 14, 2013 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  9. Libdumb

    Yep of course because American Fools, the taxpayer is paying their way. Get them the hell out of here.

    June 14, 2013 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  10. Patrick

    I think Jeb has it right, except for one thing: While they should learn English and pay fines, they should also have criminal checks done on them in both the US and Mexico. If they have any felonies, deport 'em.

    June 14, 2013 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  11. Rosslaw

    The scary thing is the Jeb REALLY IS one of the brightest Bushes and likely in the top .01% of his party which is still wrestling over how old the earth is and whether it's round or flat. At least since Jeb is married to a very lovely Mexican lady you figure he is just being a little obtuse in his comments as opposed to intentiionally spewing venom as is the right-wing's norm. I still would like to see him explain this to Mrs. Jeb Bush.

    June 14, 2013 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  12. Larry in Houston

    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 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  13. The Situation

    He's a Bush! Did anyone expected more!

    June 14, 2013 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  14. Scott

    I guess he's never seen an episode of Maury.

    June 14, 2013 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  15. zandhcats

    "More fertile" is a burden to the society in today's standard. Where are the jobs to support the large population and natural resources? Even with the so called strong stock market and house price rising, our unemployment stubbornly remains in 7.6%.

    How about to tell your rich friends to swift the jobs back here, Mr Bush?

    June 14, 2013 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  16. getalife

    Silly liberals. Its because they don't abort and contracept as much as our freeloading citizens do. But, keep showing you stupidity (yes I am name calling).

    June 14, 2013 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  17. Bribarian


    June 14, 2013 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  18. Kenneth E. Powell Jr.

    Jeb talks like a car salesman with a mouthful of samples.. What an idiot !! I cannot believe that the peeps in the state of Florida would ever vote such an idiot into office !

    June 14, 2013 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  19. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Nobody knows their children better than their mother.
    His mother said "No more Bushes".

    June 14, 2013 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  20. luckjoe

    These fertile immigrants are unskilled laborers who if granted immunity will cost the US taxpayer because their contribution is far less that their take away; earned income credit, free housing, food stamps, medicaid. The current projection is $5 trillion.

    June 14, 2013 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  21. Steveo

    Lots on the left seem to think that Bush misspeaking will derail him come 2016 (IF he decides to run). The same folks don't think Benghazi will derail Clinton, yet she has already been crowned the DEM nominee. How is that even possible?

    June 14, 2013 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  22. betty

    So he just basically called American's barren, dumb, lazy and they dont care about family. WTG Jeb! You are so much like your brother!

    June 14, 2013 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  23. greg b

    while he lacked tact in his quote, he is technically correct. Hispanic birth rates in the US are far higher than non hispanic (per 2010 Census)

    June 14, 2013 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  24. WhatATool

    Did Jeb Bush also look at the welfare rates of these "immigrants" that are soo "fertile"? Having 50 kids and then not being able to provide for them does not make America more prosperous.. look how it things turned out in India and China. The two nations have the largest populations on earth and their environment, hygiene, etc. all went to shyt. Both those nations are cesspools with high numbers of rapes, murders, etc.. and this is what Jeb Bush wants for America? What a goofball.

    June 14, 2013 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  25. Anastasia Beverhausen

    Can't wait to hear Bill Maher's take on this one.

    June 14, 2013 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
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