To Make Sense of American Politics, Immigrants Find Clues From Lands They Left

“In how many other countries can you call the top elected official in the country a liar and get away with it?” said Mr. Le, 50. “Although our democratic process looks dirty to some people, in the end it all comes out clean. We continue to be the longest-standing constitutional nation in the entire history of Earth, and it is because our forefathers designed that constitution so uniquely in balancing out the powers.”

The president’s cabinet meeting bothered Yohannes Tesfagibir, too.

Mr. Tesfagibir, 36, came to the United States eight years ago from his native country of Eritrea, an East African nation. Isaias Afwerki, Eritrea’s only president since it won independence in the 1990s, rules a country known as the North Korea of Africa, where national elections have never been held and young people are forced to work for extended periods in a national service program. Last year, a United Nations commission of inquiry said the national service program amounted to a form of slavery and accused the leaders of Eritrea of other crimes against humanity in a report denounced by government officials.

The scene in Washington reminded him of a scene in Eritrea. “It’s reminiscent of the one-man show, everyone working for the president instead of working for the country,” Mr. Tesfagibir said of the Trump cabinet session. “It was very suspicious.”

Still, although Mr. Tesfagibir said he was worried about the direction of the country and called Mr. Trump “a bully,” he said he never loses perspective.

“The reason I’m talking to you now is because I’m free,” he said.

Immigrants and refugees differed on drawing parallels between the political turmoil in America with the turmoil of their home countries.

Mr. Alatassi, the Syrian whose immigration status was caught up in a temporary limbo after Mr. Trump’s travel ban, said elements of the Trump presidency remind him of a Middle Eastern authoritarian regime:…

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