WASHINGTON (AP) — The brother of former President George W. Bush told religious conservatives Friday that the future of the U.S. economy depends upon immigrants in part because they “are more fertile” and create more businesses than native-born Americans.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is thought to be weighing a bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.
His remark that immigrants “are more fertile, and they love families” was met with silence by those attending his speech during the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s annual conference.
A spokesman said that Bush meant that immigrants, Hispanics in particular, have larger families and more children. Bush, whose wife is Mexican, also said immigrants are particularly important to helping create more taxpayers to fund the safety net for the retiring baby boomer generation.
Following painful election losses last year driven by the Hispanic vote, Republican leaders have called on the traditionally conservative opposition party to embrace immigration reform. However, some conservatives have branded the effort “amnesty” and called for rejection of efforts to give immigrants in the U.S. illegally a pathway to citizenship.
Foreign-born mothers in the U.S. typically have more children than women born in the United States. The National centre for Health Statistics found that the birth rate for foreign-born women was nearly 50 per cent higher. That has been driving population increases in the U.S. nonwhite population.
Before being granted legal status, Bush said, immigrants in the U.S. illegally should pay a fine, learn English and be blocked from receiving welfare benefits.
Bush said the nation must allow more immigrants “to pursue their dreams in our country with a vengeance to create more opportunities for all of us.”
“If we don’t do it, we will be in decline,” he said.
Associated Press writers Steve Peoples and Hope Yen in Washington contributed to this report.
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