Donald Trump in West Virginia

People cheer as they wait for President Donald Trump to speak Aug. 3 at a campaign-style rally at Big Sandy Superstore Arena in Huntington, West Virginia. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Susan Walsh

Unless Donald Trump is even dumber than we think he is, you have to hand it to him for pausing from time to time to re-energize his base, the people who buy into everything he says regardless of how false or ludicrous or even racist it is.

Every couple of weeks, Trump cynically finds a way to signal his base that despite the way everything looks, he's draining the swamp as promised.

A couple of weeks ago it was the surprise announcement that transgender people could no longer serve in the military. His administration wasn't going to pander to "misfits" like them any longer. So, let's discriminate.

Next came the announcement that he was halving the number of legal immigrants and those who could still come needed to speak English and have the qualifications to hold down a skilled job, implying that otherwise these foreigners will take jobs from working-class Americans.

Not surprisingly, both of these latest pronouncements drew howls of protest. Even Trump's own Defense Department is balking at the transgender pronouncement and both Republicans and Democrats are declaring the immigration order dead on arrival in Congress.

Resistance to Trump's edicts like these is in no small way the result of the president's constant lying about supposed problems he's hell-bent on fixing. Despite Trump's rhetoric the military is quite comfortable with its transgender policies and legal immigration has been shown to not cause fewer jobs for Americans or otherwise hurt the economy. Fact is the opposite is true.

But Trump continues to spread the falsehoods and, according to polls, about a third of the population continues to eat it up.

It turns out, for example, that even his claims about undocumented immigrants are myths. Despite being saddled with many factors associated with drug and alcohol problems, UW-Madison professor Michael Light, writing in the prestigious American Journal of Public Health, reports that undocumented immigrants are not increasing drug and alcohol crimes and deaths in the United States.

"This is an area where public and political debates have far outpaced the research," Light says. "And central to this debate is whether undocumented immigration increases drug and alcohol problems, or crime more generally. There are good theoretical reasons to think it could have increased substance abuse problems in recent decades. But the data just doesn't show it."

According to the study, rather than increasing substance abuse problems, a 1 percent increase in the proportion of the population that is undocumented is associated with 22 fewer drug arrests, 42 fewer drunken driving arrests and 0.64 fewer drug overdoses — all per 100,000 people. The frequency of drunken driving fatalities was unaffected by unauthorized immigration rates.

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According to Light, one explanation for these findings could be what prior research often calls the "healthy immigrant thesis" or "Latino paradox."

"When you look at things we think of as predictive of criminal behavior and poor health outcomes — low levels of education, few economic assets — immigrants tend to be engaging in less crime and staying healthier than we would expect," Light says.

Of course, none of this fits into Trump's narrative. The next time he talks to his base, he'll remind his backers that these immigrants are druggies, rapists and murderers. And they'll believe it.

Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. dzweifel@madison.com and on Twitter @DaveZweifel

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Dave is editor emeritus of The Capital Times.