Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type

Capstone Project

Degree Name



International Migration Studies


Monica Varsanyi

Subject Categories

American Politics | Immigration Law | Law and Politics | Law and Society | Migration Studies | Performance Studies | Politics and Social Change | State and Local Government Law


border spectacle, immigration federalism, state politics, anti-immigrant attitudes, Texas border


Texas Governor Greg Abbott launched Operation Lone Star in March 2021 to respond to the “crisis” at the United States/Mexico border. While in the US immigration is usually thought of as a federal responsibility, different states have worked to expand their capacity to welcome or exclude immigrants. Operation Lone Star is an example of how one state is working to restrict immigration to the US and build notoriety for its republican governor. Drawing on press releases, executive orders, news articles, opinion pieces, and other sources I highlight the performative politics within this initiative. Operation Lone Star is an example of how states promote spectacular interpretations of the border to levy power against the federal government and capture attention for political entrepreneurs. Leaning on theories of border spectacle and border games, I demonstrate how the tension between federal and state governments makes immigration federalism particularly prone to image-driven politics. I conclude with suggestions for future research into immigration federalism and anti-immigrant sentiment.