Policy Report

Broken Borders
Government, Foreign-Born Workers, and the U.S. Economy


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The U.S. government interferes with the market for foreign laborers by restricting the number and mix of immigrants and setting tight quantitative limits on foreign-born guest workers. This has created a mismatch between the demand for foreign workers from U.S. businesses and their supply, directly leading to the illegal immigration situation we confront today. The current system inefficiently limits the gains that our economy could achieve from employing larger numbers of foreign workers, and it disproportionately harms small U.S. businesses. The economic fears associated with increased guest workers or immigrants are unfounded. The current Senate immigration reform proposal would be a marginal improvement but does not go far enough. Red Card, an alternative guest worker proposal, would better coordinate labor markets. Ultimately, an immigration market free from government limitations and interference would be the most efficient solution.

Benjamin Powell is a Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute, Director of the Free Market Institute at Texas Tech University, and former President of the Association of Private Enterprise Education. Dr. Powell received his Ph.D. in economics from George Mason University. He has been Assistant Professor of Economics at San Jose State University, Associate Professor of Economics at Suffolk University, a Fellow with the Mercatus Center's Global Prosperity Initiative, and a Visiting Research Fellow with the American Institute for Economic Research. He is also the editor of the Independent Institute books, Housing America: Building out of Crisis and Making Poor Nations Rich.

Zachary Gochenour is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and a Fellow in the Department of Economics at George Mason University. His articles have been published in such scholarly journals as The Independent Review and The Review of Austrian Economics, and his popular articles have appeared in the Economic Bulletin (American Institute for Economic Research), Reason, and The Conference Board Report.