Philip Bump reports that Donald Trump has a new theory: Border patrol agents have been told to allow illegal immigrants to pour into the country so they can vote in the presidential election.

In fairness, Trump didn’t come up with this all by himself. In a conversation today between Trump and representatives of border patrol agents, a union official suggested something like this. The official appeared to say that agents are being told not to spend time deporting those who are found to have criminal records, in order to spend more time fast-tracking people’s applications for citizenship so they can vote this fall. After hearing this, Trump gestured at the reporters present and said:

“You’re not going to write it. That’s huge. But they’re letting people pour into the country so they can go and vote.”

It seems Trump misconstrued one statement (that border agents are being told to set aside those with criminal records, in order to process other would-be voters faster) and turned it into another (border patrol agents are being told to let illegal immigrants pour into the country so they can vote). Regardless, McClatchy reports that the union is not providing evidence of its theories, and Trump’s suggestion makes little sense, since illegal immigrants can’t vote; only citizens can.

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But in a way the details of this little dust-up don’t matter as much as the broader argument Trump has been hinting at, which can be summed up this way: There is something suspect about the number of Latinos who are voting in the presidential election.

For instance, it’s worth linking today’s Trumpism with the tweet heard ’round the world about Alicia Machado:

What Trump really meant by that tweet is that there’s something suspect about Alicia Machado’s effort to secure citizenship for herself. It is being engineered by Democrats for their own ends, and Machado is merely a tool in that nefarious plot. But Democrats aren’t the main reason Machado is becoming a citizen. Donald Trump is. Machado had explicitly said in the past that she is becoming a citizen in order to vote against Donald Trump.

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Last month, Trump offered up another variation on this whole argument. He said this:

“I think this will be the last election that the Republicans have a chance of winning because you’re going to have people flowing across the border, you’re going to have illegal immigrants coming in and they’re going to be legalized and they’re going to be able to vote and once that all happens you can forget it.”

It’s true that Democrats and Hillary Clinton favor a path to citizenship, at least for the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in this country. (As for Trump’s suggestion that untold hordes will come in later and become citizens, and thus voters, the immigration reform measures that Democrats have supported would also throw enormous additional resources at securing the border.) It’s also true that many of those people currently here would, if they became citizens, likely vote Democratic.

But as many Republican strategists will tell you, the answer to this problem is for the GOP to embrace immigration reform in order to get right with Latinos and then try to appeal to them and get them to vote Republican.

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Trump is doing the opposite of this, obviously, by doing everything he possibly can to alienate this growing demographic. Indeed, the result of Trump’s efforts may be that more Latinos vote in this election than otherwise would have. As the Post reported recently, activists around the country believe that Trump’s candidacy may be sparking a surge in applications for citizenship among Latinos, precisely so that they can vote against Trump. Which means there are very likely a lot of Alicia Machados out there.

We don’t know if Latinos will end up voting in this election at higher rates than in 2012. That’s still one of the outstanding unknowns. But other preliminary evidence, such as surging Google searches about voter registration in Latino areas, suggests it might happen.

This isn’t all that mysterious. If more Latinos do end up voting this fall, it won’t be due to dark and dastardly conspiracy theories. It will be due to one Donald J. Trump.

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