Cover: Borders and Values

Borders and Values

A Game About the Challenges of Immigration Policy in the United States

Published Mar 5, 2024

by Brian A. Jackson, David R. Frelinger, Emily Yoder, Stephen M. Worman


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Borders and Values is a board game that allows you to explore the challenges and complexity of immigration policy in the United States. In the game, four players represent the main actors on this issue: The Migrant player takes on the role of all potential immigrants seeking to come to the United States; the Civil Society player represents public opinion; the Business player represents the U.S. business community; and the Government player represents all the components of the U.S. government that affect immigration and border security policy.

Each player follows a different set of rules, has their own board, and scores points in their own way. In this respect, Borders and Values consists of four mini-games. But these mini-games are very connected: The actions that each player takes affect the other three players in important ways, sometimes helpful and sometimes not. In this way, Borders and Values seeks to reflect the complexity of immigration policy.

Borders and Values does not seek to show that more or less immigration is generally better or worse for the United States. Instead, the purpose of the game is to give players a sense of the many ways in which different stakeholders on this issue affect one another. Many specific rules and cards in the game are based on information about how the United States has actually managed immigration and border security in the 21st century and what research has shown about the effects of different types of policy changes.

Game complexity and length: Borders and Values is a moderately complex game aimed at college students. Expect four new players to take 1–2 hours to complete the first round, with further rounds going more quickly. This duration can be significantly reduced if someone who knows the game well is available to teach and guide new players. A full game of Borders and Values lasts 5–7 rounds.

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Borders and Values was designed by researchers at the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. Funding for the development of Borders and Values was provided by gifts from RAND supporters and income from RAND's operations. The research was conducted by the Community Health and Environmental Policy Program within RAND Social and Economic Well-Being.

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