(CNSNews.com) - Fixing the nation's "broken" immigration system "would actually help our housing market," President Barack Obama told enthusiastic high school students in Phoenix, Arizona on Tuesday.
"It's pretty simple," the president said. "When -- when more people buy homes and play by the rules, home values go up for everybody. And according to one recent study, the average homeowner has already seen the value of their home boosted by thousands of dollars just because of immigration.
"And the good news is, with the help of your senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake, the Senate has already passed a bipartisan immigration bill that's got the support of CEOs and labor and law enforcement. This could help homeownership here. So I want you to encourage Republicans in the House of Representatives to stop, you know, dragging their feet; let's go ahead and get this done."
Among other things, the Senate immigration bill would provide legal status to 11 million people who came to the United States illegally -- those who did not "play by the rules," to use Obama's phrase. But House Republicans say border security must be the priority of immigration reform.
Repair rundown homes
Obama on Tuesday also addressed what he called the "uneven recovery," saying communities hardest hit by the housing crisis should be rebuilt.
"Let's put construction workers back to work repairing rundown homes, tearing down vacant properties, so that the value of homes in those surrounding areas start picking up. We can put people to work right now -- and improve the remaining housing stock that's out there."
According to the president, "Places that are facing a longer road back from the crisis should have their country's help to get back on their feet."
As part of his housing recovery plan, Obama urged Congress to pass legislation giving "every homeowner" the chance to save thousands of dollars a year by refinancing their mortgage at today's rates.
And he said people who cannot afford homes should "still have a decent place to rent."
"So if we help more Americans refinance their homes, if we help qualified families get a mortgage, we reform our immigration system, we rebuild the hardest-hit communities, we make sure that folks have a decent place to rent if they're not yet able to buy, all these steps will give more middle-class families the chance to either buy their own home now or eventually buy their own home," he said.
Obama also said private lending "should be the backbone" of the housing market. He wants Congress to "wind down" Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-controlled mortgage guarantee companies that were rescued by a $187 billion taxpayer bailout during the financial crisis.