Columbia International Affairs Online: Policy Briefs

CIAO DATE: 05/2014

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

Benjamin W. Powell, Zachary Gochenour

September 2013

Independent Institute


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.