A working girl, Audrina, gets smacked down by her pimp and in the process the two come across a dead little girl amongst the trash cans. Later that night, Fin answers Audrina's call. Fin investigates the dead body and realizes that the kid is way too young to be a hooker.
Warner tells Fin that the little girl died from strangulation by a heavy chain. The girl is twelve-year-old Ruby Brown, a seventh grader whose mother filed a missing person's report the night before. Warner lets Fin know that this isn't a sex crime, and the case should move on to homicide. However, Fin thinks Ruby looks like a special victim, and takes it upon himself to tell Ruby's mother the unfortunate news.
At Ruby's home, Fin learns that she had gone to the store to get milk, but never came home. Back at the precinct, Cragen tells Fin to give the file over to homicide. Fin thinks that if he does that, the case will go unsolved. Turns out another dead little girl, Magda, has just shown up--strangled with a chain just like Ruby. This could mean a serial killer is on the loose and Fin has his case.
Fin investigates the deli where Ruby was last seen. The store owner tells Fin that he didn't see anything strange. Fin and Munch hit the streets and try to find a witness who saw Ruby, but they are out of luck. No one wants to help. Fin's determined to find a witness even it takes longer than the work day. At the precinct, Stabler and Benson don't have any more leads. Fin wants to get the word out to the press. Benson, on the sly, sets up Fin with a journalist, Nicole Gleason.
Fin convinces Nicole to run the story about the two dead girls by tomorrow morning. Cragen is not happy with Fin's disobedience, but Fin is unapologetic and thinks that if this had been a white girl, more people would be paying attention. Although Cragen is displeased with Fin, the press coverage leads the detectives to Donnie, a supermarket delivery boy who likes little girls. Fin arrests Donnie and interrogates him, but Donnie seems confused about what he did wrong. Fin shows Donnie the chain, but Donnie claims he never hurt anyone.
While Fin had Donnie in custody, Scotty Wu, another twelve-year-old kid, is found dead--strangled with a chain. When Fin talks to Scotty's parents, Chen and Ying, he finds out that Scotty was his parents' "anchor" and that they think the "snakehead" did this. Chen and Ying, scared of immigration, tell Fin to talk to Keiko at the Center for Immigrant Services.
Fin learns from Keiko that Scotty, Magda, and Ruby were all children born in America to undocumented immigrant parents, or "anchor babies." Munch and Fin think that the CIS will have the information linking their killer to the kids. While the detectives go through the hate mail, they watch Flashpoint with Gordon Garrison, an anti-immigrant talk show. Garrison's guest on the show is Randall Carver, who tries to stand up for immigrants' rights. Carver begins to blame the SVU for not taking the recent murders of children seriously. This enrages Fin!
Carver asks fellow New Yorkers to meet outside the SVU precinct to get the detectives to start taking the murders seriously. However, Fin confronts Carver and tells him to keep away. While Fin and Carver argue, an anti-immigrant fanatic tries to voice his opinion, but Fin pushes him aside. Then, in response to Carver's incessant diatribe, Fin pushes him out of his way on national television. Fin gets in trouble with Cragen and Chief Detective Muldrew, and is ordered to apologize to Carver.
At Carver's office, Joe Thagard, a fanatic of Gordon Garrison, threatens Carver and throws a chair through the front window. Fin gets there just in time to arrest Thagard and makes sure Carver is okay. However, Carver races after Fin and tells him not to arrest Thagard, because he won't be pressing charges. Carver believes Gordon Garrison is the bad guy in all of this. Carver tells Fin that if he lets Thagard go, he'll accept Fin's apology. Fin doesn't have a choice but to do what Carver requests.
Nicole meets Fin to tell him she wants to help out, but Fin is frustrated and upset about the way this case is going. Nicole tells him to enjoy the "pity party" and leaves him alone. Fin paces and Benson drops off some files for him, but he doesn't want her paperwork! However, Benson tells him these are the leads from CIS that she thought might help. Fin tells Benson that the fact that people don't seem to care about these kids is really getting to him. Fin finds Joe Thagard's file in the employee documents Benson dug out, and it turns out Thagard was in charge of shredding documents, which would have given him access to where the children and their parents live. Fin can't believe it; he cut Thagard loose just hours ago!
Fin and Munch find a ton of evidence at Thagard's house, including pictures of the deceased kids. Immediately, they round up the other kids on Thagard's "to kill" list. There is one more kid that needs to be accounted for and when Fin arrives at the Al-Haziz family's house, he finds the mother bound and the father knocked out on the floor. Fin stops Thagard just in time to save Tariq, the son.
During Thagard's interrogation, he shows his true colors as a true bigot. Fin, not letting Thagard shake him, gets the call from Munch that CSU found blood and skin tissue on Thagard's chains. Thagard knows he's caught, and believes what he did was right. However, Fin finds an ugly surprise: Randall Carver will be defending Thagard, pro bono, because he believes Thagard has been brainwashed by Gordon Garrison.
During the arraignment, Carver claims that Thagard was brainwashed. Although Cabot tries to throw this defense out the window, Judge Preston believes there is ample precedent for the brainwashing defense. At the SVU precinct, the detectives are at a loss, and Cabot decides all she can do is show the jury who Joe Thagard really is.
At the trial, Thagard claims he started watching Flashpoint after he got out of the Coast Guard. Thagard says Garrison's words made sense to him after watching the program for awhile. He blames all his problems on illegal immigrants taking jobs away from American citizens. Emotionally, Thagard says he knows murder is wrong, but when he watched Garrison's program, murder made sense. Thagard, as a true patriot, wanted to do what he thought was in the best interest of the country: kill anchor babies. However, Thagard says he's sorry for killing the kids. Carver draws on this sympathy and tells Thagard it's not his fault. When Cabot cross-examines Thagard, she exposes how he was a racist before he ever saw Flashpoint. If Thagard was really brainwashed, according to Cabot, he would have told the world about the murders, instead of trying to hide them.
During the break, Fin talks to Carver, who says he wants to stop the disease that is ignorance, and that Garrison is a cause. As a boy, Carver's father was part of the KKK, and this taught him that a good man can be swept up by evil forces. Carver truly believes that those children would still be alive if Thagard had never watched Gordon Garrison on Flashpoint.
When Carver gets Garrison on the stand, Garrison claims he never told anyone to kill; however, Carver quotes Garrison, proving that he had in fact alluded to the fact that immigrants should be killed. When Cabot cross-examines Garrison, her attack on his character prompts a fanatic in the courtroom to threaten Cabot, proving the power of Garrison's words. The courtroom is in mayhem!
The outcome of the trial is shocking and sad: the jury has found Joe Thagard not guilty on all three counts of murder. While Fin and Cabot are getting over the disappointing and tragic turnout, Thagard whispers something to Carver that jolts him out of his happy mood. Fin talks to Cabot about the trial, and she blames the outcome on their underestimation of Carver. Fin tries to forget his troubles over a drink with Nicole. Just then, he gets a call from Carver and leaves Nicole at the bar.
Fin comes to Carver's office where Carver tells him some disturbing news. After the verdict, Thagard whispered to Carver, "Thanks, now I can go kill more of those kids." Fin immediately hops into action to stop Thagard, but Carver already has. Behind his desk is Thagard's dead body, lying in a pool of blood.