Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) on Friday said the United States needs immigration reform because immigrants are more 'fertile,' have strong family values and will keep the nation young.
"Immigrants created far more businesses than native-born Americans over the last 20 years," Bush said at the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s Road to the Majority conference in Washington.
"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."
The audience, which gave the potential presidential candidate warm rounds of applause when he discussed education reform and his personal faith, largely sat on its hands while he discussed immigration.
Bush pressed on, however, arguing for an immigration system that creates a guest worker program, giving illegal immigrants a "path to legal status," though he did not mention citizenship.
When he shifted to education reform, the audience warmed up, giving some shouts of "amen" and loud claps when he said, "We've so dumbed down the curriculum and made our standards so low" in public schools.
Bush discussed his push as Florida governor for major school reform that included vouchers for private and charter schools.
He also argued for a focus on "strong families and faith" instead of dependence on government.
"We've rendered unto Caesar responsibilities that don't belong to Caesar, and we're all the worse for it," he said to cheers.
Bush warned of a "crisis on the family front" because of increasing single-parent homes, arguing for more support for faith and community groups — and putting a 21st century spin on the "family values" argument.
"Families don't look all the time like they used to, and that's OK," he said. "The goal should be the outcome. Are America's children in loving homes where they're taught the difference between right and wrong and hard work and doing justice and loving mercy and walking humbly? That should be our focus," he said.
He also struck a personal note, discussing his conversion to Catholicism, saying he first converted for his wife but grew to "understand and love the blessed sacraments" as a young father.