This essay examines how left-of-center media reporters and commentators responded to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids and Mississippi’s criminalization of migrant workers in their aftermath. These responses focused largely on the moral or ethical implications of detaining, arresting, and deporting the migrant workers involved in the case, often by crafting a tightly woven image of the innocence of these particular migrants and, even more so, of their children. As a result, public discourse about the politics of immigration enforcement and its relationship to criminality and citizenship were reduced to an ostensibly apolitical and ideologically neutral appeal that cannot be contested: to protect children. The innocence of children was also coupled with the giddy criminalization of those who “torture” them, namely Donald Trump. These dual constructions—an innocence that marks one as socially valuable and a criminality that marks one as monstrous—produce a moral absolutism that undermines an otherwise rational political project whose core tenets are diversity and multiculturalism. Outrage and grievance directed against criminality, even when aimed at political enemies, upholds the moral foundations of racist and xenophobic hatred that has been used to justify the disproportionate policing, surveillance, and incarceration of people of color.

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