April 6th, 2014
04:08 PM ET
7 years ago

Jeb Bush: Immigration is 'not a felony' but 'an act of love'

(CNN) - Jeb Bush said the debate over immigration reform needs to move past derisive rhetoric describing illegal immigrants.

The former Florida governor said in an interview Sunday in College Station, Texas, that people who come to the United States illegally are often looking for opportunities to provide for their families that are not available in their home countries.

"Yes, they broke the law, but it's not a felony. It's an act of love, it's an act of commitment to your family," Bush told Fox News host Shannon Bream at town hall event at the George Bush Presidential Library Center.

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"I honestly think that is a different kind of crime, that there should be a price paid, but it shouldn't rile people up that people are actually coming to this country to provide for their families," he said.

"I think we need to kind of get beyond the harsh political rhetoric to a better place."

Bush acknowledged that his comments would be recorded. "So be it," he said before discussing immigration reform, an area where he splits from many in the Republican Party in lobbying for a comprehensive overhaul.

Bush also talked at length about education reform, another issue on which he is at odds with many in the GOP. In his two terms as governor of Florida, Bush overhauled the state's education system, introducing a school voucher program and banning the use of race as a factor in university admissions.

"The system we have today with over 13,000 government-run, politicized, unionized monopolies is probably not the best governance model for 2014 and going forward," he said.

2016 decision by year's end

Bush is considering launching a campaign for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016, ramping up his political activity in recent weeks.

At the town hall, Bush reiterated that he would make a decision on a White House bid by the end of the year, a timeline he's repeated as speculation swirls that he might be a viable option for the Republican Party.

The politics, he said, are "pretty crazy right now," suggesting too much time is spent strategizing how a candidate can "win the Muscatine pork roast straw poll."

Bush said there will be two overriding factors in his decision: "Can a candidate run with a hopeful, optimistic message? In my case, that means can one do it joyfully without being tied to all the convention of the here and now?"

He also said that family considerations would play a significant role in his ultimate decision.

Pivoting to a wider assessment of Republican politics, Bush said the GOP must choose candidates who can beat Democrats in general elections.

"I think maybe the answer is that we need to elect candidates that have a vision that is bigger and broader and candidates that are organized around winning the election, not making a point," he said.

Another name often included on a list of potential Republican candidates is Chris Christie. The New Jersey governor, who is also still weighing whether he'll jump into the race, put Bush on the top of his list of prospective 2016 hopefuls in an interview last month.

Asked about his fellow Republican’s praise, Bush called Christie "the real deal" and a "spectacular guy."

Bush 41 marks 25 years

Sunday's town hall was the closing event in a weekend of commemorations marking former President George H. W. Bush's 25th anniversary of his presidency. Jeb Bush is his second-oldest son following his brother, former President George W. Bush.

The town hall event was closed to the media, but portions of Bush's interview with Bream was televised on Fox News.

The weekend of commemorations also marks a resurgence of sorts for Bush 41, who was hospitalized in 2012 at a facility in Houston where he spent several weeks receiving treatment for bronchitis, a bacterial infection and a persistent cough.

The President and his wife, Barbara, attended most of the events this weekend, including the interview with Jeb Bush, according to a Bush spokesperson.

The spokesperson also said roughly 800 people attended events this weekend. Guest included many close advisers to the Bush family, including former Defense Secretary Bob Gates, former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

CNN Senior Producer Kevin Bohn contributed to this report.

Filed under: 2016 • Immigration • Jeb Bush • Republican Party
soundoff (617 Responses)
  1. Don Draper's brother

    So, does that mean we can now remove Bush from the 2016 race?

    April 7, 2014 08:38 am at 8:38 am |
  2. CARAC

    I am a registered Independent , since the first Bush lied about no new taxes, and within 90 days, we had a new and larger tax increase. Bush # 2 was also new not to tell the truth. We need NO MORE BUSHES NOR CLINTONS. We need people like Abe Lincoln or Harry Truman that we may not always agree with, but I think they were more honest.

    April 7, 2014 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
  3. TiredOfPaying

    Dear Republicans: Please... Please.. No More Bushes. Are you seriously telling me that you cannot find a canidate in another family?

    April 7, 2014 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
  4. mfh

    Bush family, crooks every one of them.

    April 7, 2014 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  5. gekaap

    I'm going to go rob a bank. It's not a felony, it's an act of love.

    April 7, 2014 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  6. realAmerican

    a RINO that is more dem than anything else-conservatives will not vote for that

    April 7, 2014 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  7. The Real Tom Paine

    @ Hex: so, taking the risk to do something to better yourself and your family is an act of selfishness? Since when did we condemn people for wanting to better themselves-oh, that's right, when we use the fiction that they are taking jobs that no one who is a success wants. The rationale for opposition to immigration reform is always economic, yet we can't really find any evidence that this is damaging our economy. Every generation has had its own debate about immigration, and its the same tired, old arguments, that people are afraid the country will be diminished or altered because of people with strange accents, religions are somehow "taking" things they have not earned. In the eyes of these people, no amount of time or work will ever alter the fact that these are not the " right" people. Just be honest, and say you don't want them because you are afraid. Just be honest.

    April 7, 2014 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  8. Richard

    So is robbing a store to feed your family, but we still jail these criminals for their love

    April 7, 2014 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  9. HenryMiller

    Ridiculous! It may be an act of desperation. Or of opportunism. But it's no act of "love."

    Jeb just took himself off my "maybe" list, though, granted, it was only a weak "maybe" to begin with.

    April 7, 2014 08:52 am at 8:52 am |
  10. William Moore

    This is exactly the kind of leadership we need to lead the republicans forward. I am a republican and I have the same views towards immigration. The republican party needs to work on this issue with more understanding. Yes we need border control because yes bad guys will get in, and yes we can't open the doors to ALL who want to live here because no economy on the planet can handle that. But for those that are already here, there is no need to scare them and round them up and deport them. Our party is looked at as a party that is insensitive toward these issues. Yes they broke the law, and no one is above the law. But punishment could be community service in the area they decide to reside, or a tax or fee for entering the country illegally.

    April 7, 2014 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
  11. HenryMiller

    Jan Nappylotto

    Support Breaking-And-Entering Amnesty!
    – It is a human right that I can enter your house at will and take over one of your rooms.
    – it is YOUR responsibility that you pay for my education. Who cares if YOUR kids education becomes substandard. YOU MUST pay for mine!
    – It is YOUR responsibility to pay for my free healthcare. I don't give a damn if YOUR healthcare costs skyrocket. YOU MUST pay for mine!
    – It is YOUR responsibility to pay for my free food through food stamps. Who cares if the tax money that should have been going to legally grow the country is spent on feeding me and my own after breaking into your house.


    The Democratic Party platform in a nutshell.

    April 7, 2014 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  12. CraigM

    The American economy is in the toilet; high unemployment; our pay checks do not go near as far as they use to; healthcare still a nightmare as far as costs; and yet we are expected to take in all the peoples of the world??? In the bill that was passed by the Senate I believe that once illegals gain amnesty (and that is what it is) they can bring immediate family members over with no issues, I think it is four people per illegal immigrant. Now do the math folks, how can we continue to assimilate that many people into the country? Into the economy; into the educational and judical systems; into the healthcare system; into the welfare system??????? They need to demand reforms in their own countries and not crash ours!!

    April 7, 2014 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  13. Qi

    Ted Cruz 2016....No amnesty.

    April 7, 2014 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  14. fbruns

    Whether you agree or not, finally a politician who speaks his mind. I have to respect that. It's what will save this country.

    April 7, 2014 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
  15. GreyMan

    Oh no. A Republican making sense. Well, his career is now over. The base can't let him get away with making sense.

    April 7, 2014 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  16. strangways

    and there endeth JB's 2016 presidential bid – proving he is just as tone-deaf as his older brother.

    April 7, 2014 09:03 am at 9:03 am |
  17. Nick

    Like many I struggle with "illegal immigration". No doubt some people suffer horribly in other countries and deserve the sanctuary we can provide. That said, I don't want criminals or terrorists crossing the borders either, hence the need for a legal and humanitarian process to enter the country. The current process is broken, and outright amnesty without first fixing the process seems to be a non-starter (despite Obama's back-door attempts). This is where Congress needs to outline the basics of a legal and humanitarian program and take it to the voters.

    April 7, 2014 09:03 am at 9:03 am |
  18. Rocketman

    I have no problem with immigration, but do with "illegal immigration". My spouse is from the Phillippines and her family applied for a visa and waited 5 years for a green card; if you allow those who entered the country illegally to be granted amnesty it would be mocking those who followed the law prior. If you are coming to the US to enjoy all the laws, rights, and privileges that are afforded to its citizens, the first thing you should not do is break the law by sneaking in, right?

    April 7, 2014 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  19. Harold Read

    Amnesty for Illegal Immigrants = treason against US Laws

    April 7, 2014 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  20. miscreantsall

    Cold blooded strategic move to get hispanics to vote for him or another republican that jumps on this standard republican bait and switch style.

    An act of love, huh?

    We seriously need to temporarily close our borders. Period!

    Let's place a giant canvas bag over the Statue of Liberty and keep it covered until we figure out how to take care of our own FIRST and then later have an enforced program for controlled immigration that enhances our way of life.

    April 7, 2014 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  21. Minnie Mouse

    Make sure you contact the IRS to give everyone an "ACT OF LOVE", by not giving fines to all of the people who cannot afford to purchase insurance. They are not hurting anyone but themselves but instead they are being punished with a fine. The illegal immigrants know exactly that what they are doing is illegal. A law is a law and the illegal immigrants don't deserve any special treat just like the legalized Americans don't get any either. These people are bringing in drugs, crime ect.. and they are not all here for the sake of "ACTS Of LOVE" at all.

    April 7, 2014 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  22. Sierra

    So old Jeb is okay with people doing the Goldilocks thing? They can just come into his home and make themselves at home because they are homeless, tired, and hungry? It's okay because Jeb has more than these people do. After all they are just trying to feed their family, give them shelter, and clothing.

    Jeb, being a true Christian man who lives what he preaches will, in the first 100 days of Bush#3 reign will strike down laws against stealing the essentials of life so long as you are lovingly doing it to provide the things your family needs.

    Immigration reform needs to start at the front of the line, not with the criminals who have no respect for this county, US citizens, or our laws. Yes, life stinks in many countries, but many places in the US are on par with 3rd world nations in every way. Doctor's Without Borders has teams that operate here in the US. International Child Welfare groups bring food to children here in the US. Send the criminals and their families to their country of origin, make them wait 5 years before they can apply to get at the very end of the line. Nobody who desires to come here LEGALLY should be behind a person who came here illegally.

    April 7, 2014 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  23. Roland Thompson

    The question is: Can we afford another Bush as President. If Jed has any chance of being elected, may he at least be more like his father, and not the calamity that was his brother.

    April 7, 2014 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  24. rockfisher

    Jeb Bush is pandering for the moderate vote. Will he not press charges against the person who robs him because that person was just trying to feed their familly? Will he allow the person who burglarizes his home to keep the goods because they just loved the furniture? Politicians say whatever they feel will get them money and votes and for the most part everything that comes out of their mouths is mindless babble.

    April 7, 2014 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  25. pinochled

    The GOP's core is xenophobic and nativistic. They won't embrace Jeb Bush's position.

    April 7, 2014 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
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