Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) defended himself against criticism for characterizing illegal immigration as an "act of love" last weekend. 

During an awards dinner in Stamford, Conn., Bush said Thursday night he was reiterating a position he has held for the better part of four years, according to The Associated Press

"The simple fact is, there is no conflict between enforcing our laws, believing in the rule of law and having some sensitivity to the immigrant experience, which is part of who we are as a country," he said at the dinner named after his grandfather, Prescott Bush. 

Bush, a long-time advocate for immigration reform, said the system is broken and continuing to perpetuate it will not solve the problem. 

"Fixing it and making it an economically driven system will be part of the catalytic converter of sustained economic growth," he said. 

Bush, seen as a potential GOP candidate for president in 2016, caught flak for his comments last week, which some Republicans characterized as pandering to the Hispanic community. 

Speaking at his father's presidential library, Bush had described illegal immigration as an act of love for parents who want to provide for their family. He described it as illegal but not rising to the level of a felony. 

“The way I look at this is someone who comes to our country because they couldn’t come legally,” he said at the time. “They come to our country because their families — the dad who loved their children — was worried that their children didn’t have food on the table. And they wanted to make sure their family was intact, and they crossed the border because they had no other means to work to be able to provide for their family. Yes, they broke the law, but it’s not a felony. 

“It’s an act of love,” the former governor continued. “It’s an act of commitment to your family. I honestly think that 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.”