Hyo Suk George, 70, of Columbus County, N.C., called her arrest for voting despite being a noncitizen “a nightmare.” She pleaded guilty and was fined $100. (Justin Kase Conder/For The Washington Post)

THE DAMAGE from President Trump’s fixation on immigrants is visible not only in the five-week shutdown the country just endured, nor just in the wasted energy that Congress is currently exerting trying to avert another one. Officials all over the government are misallocating government time and resources in service to Mr. Trump’s backward priorities, and unnecessarily harming people in the process.

The latest example: Last summer, as one of the most spectacular instances of alleged ballot tampering in recent memory unfolded right under his nose, Robert Higdon Jr., the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, focused his investigative zeal on a handful of immigrants who had improperly voted, in many cases out of confusion or due to the incompetence of others, as The Post’s Amy Gardner, Beth Reinhard and Alice Crites reported Sunday.

Then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions had encouraged a crackdown on immigration crimes, and Mr. Trump’s fevered conspiracy-mongering about illegal immigrant voting had made his preoccupations clear enough. Does that explain Mr. Higdon’s priorities? Certainly his decisions can’t have been based on logic or evidence. According to a 2017 audit of the previous year’s race, nearly all the improper votes cast in North Carolina came from felons, not noncitizens. Out of 4.5 million votes in 2016, only 41 were cast by noncitizens. Mr. Higdon’s office declined to provide any explanation to us.

The stories behind many of those noncitizen votes make Mr. Higdon’s decisions even less comprehensible. Of the 20 noncitizen voters he bravely rounded up, all but one were legal permanent residents. One was registered to vote in person after handing over her documents for inspection. Another had a registration form submitted for him without his knowledge, and when he got a registration card in the mail, he thought he was legally registered. Another had already passed the citizenship test but was not allowed to take the oath on the same day because the room was too full. It was reasonable enough for him to imagine he was eligible to vote. It was unreasonable for a prosecutor to haul him into court. Though the fines he and others received were minimal, they still had to consult lawyers and spend time dealing with their prosecutions. Meanwhile, the government had to send officers to round them up.

As the U.S. Attorney’s Office wasted time on noncitizen voting, operatives working for the Republican in the race for North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District were allegedly hatching a plot to illegally manipulate absentee voting in the area. The scale of the potential fraud is large enough that the congressional seat is vacant pending further investigation.

Formal investigation of North Carolina’s real voting problems should have started months before it did. Last summer would have been an opportune time.