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Immigrants hear echoes from the past in Trump’s election claims

More than a month after the 2020 election, President Donald Trump continues to falsely insist the results are fraudulent and the election was stolen from him. And for some immigrants, hearing those claims reminds them of the political turmoil they fled back home. Yamiche Alcindor has the story.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    More than a month after the presidential election, Donald Trump, President Trump, continues to falsely insist that the results are fraudulent and that the election was stolen from him.

    In the echoes of this moment, some immigrants hear the political turmoil they fled in their own countries.

    Yamiche is back with that story.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Noorjahan Akbar has known conflict most of her life. She was just three months old when Soviet Union troops withdrew from her home country of Afghanistan.

    When she turned six, the Taliban took power. Her family escaped their harsh rule for Pakistan and a chance at an education. Akbar moved to the U.S. permanently in 2014. But she says, in the echoes of President Trump and his administration, she hears the turmoil she and her family fled in her home country.

  • Noorjahan Akbar:

    None of these are signs of a democratic leader. These are all signs of an autocrat who is drunk on power and doesn't have people around him who would call him out.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    The transition to the Biden White House has begun.

    But more than a month after the election, President Donald Trump continues to falsely insist he won and that there was widespread voter fraud.

  • President Donald Trump:

    We have never lost an election. We're winning this election.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Earlier this month, the president repeated false claims at a rally in Georgia.

  • President Donald Trump:

    They cheated and they rigged our presidential election. But we will still win it. We will still win it.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in any state. President Trump lost the election. And it wasn't close, either in electoral or popular vote terms.

    But some Trump supporters continue to protest the election results. Over the weekend, thousands of pro-Trump supporters rallied in D.C. As night fell, members of the right-wing Proud Boys group burned Black Lives Matter banners. Confrontation broke out between pro- and anti-Trump groups, and four people were stabbed.

    Akbar says the world is watching America, including Afghans abroad. They are all too familiar with actual fraudulent elections, as in 2014, when then Secretary of State John Kerry mediated the disputed outcome.

  • Noorjahan Akbar:

    Who is most impacted when democracy becomes shaky? Who is most impacted when this idea that your vote doesn't matter becomes a common belief and becomes a tool for voter suppression? That only hurts the most marginalized people.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Marginalized people like Francois Pierre-Louis' family when they landed in 1970s New York City.

    After growing up in Haiti, suppression was all Pierre-Louis and his siblings knew. For 14 years, the country's leader, Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier, jailed and killed his critics. When he was a young boy, Duvalier killed Pierre-Louis' uncles.

    By 1965, Duvalier had declared himself president for life. And even after dictatorship in Haiti ended, political turmoil in the country has remained.

  • Francois Pierre-Louis:

    No one ever loses elections in Haiti. And if they — you tell them they lose, they arm their gangs. They go around shooting everybody, burn down homes, burn down offices, burn down electoral offices, so that they can intimidate people, and, finally, they're self-declared winners.

    What happens is that, when you have people really buying into the news that the — President Trump won, even though he didn't win the election, and he has all these people out there mobilizing for him, and these people are armed, they're threatening people, sooner or later, they can go out there and start violence. And then, eventually, people will be afraid.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Pierre-Louis said he hopes the U.S. has strong government institutions and officials who will guard against such lawlessness.

    Indeed, of the dozens of lawsuits President Trump and other Republicans have filed to contest the election results, not one has found any evidence of fraud.

    And key Republican state officials continue to push back on the president's rhetoric. In Arizona, GOP Governor Doug Ducey tweeted, the state followed the rules and has some of the strongest election laws in the country.

    Still, Pierre-Louis says Americans need to pay attention and understand that democracies can die.

  • Francois Pierre-Louis:

    The American public doesn't understand that democracy is a fragile system that can wither away if you don't take care of it.

    Look, the U.S. is the beacon. And once that light is turned off, it's going to take a long time to for something else to appear.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Infectious disease Dr. Nada Fadul knows what it means for a democracy to slip away. She grew up in Sudan and saw a democratically elected leader overthrown by military officer Omar al-Bashir, who then ruled for 30 years.

    She says the American dream includes being able to choose your own leader. President Trump's rhetoric reminds her of her past, and she's worried he will set a dangerous precedent.

  • Nada Fadul:

    The fact that he refused to concede reminded us of those times. So, we had almost like a PTSD type of reaction.

    That model of transition of power that we have witnessed every four years in this country is now at risk, because future presidents might follow his footsteps and say: He did it before. Why can't I do it?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Maryna Kavaleuskaya fled her native Belarus in 2012. The human rights lawyer worked in a land with no rule of law, and the government of Europe's so-called last dictator threatened her.

    President Alexander Lukashenko has ruled the country for 26 years. Sunday is now protest day in Belarus, as it has been each Sunday since Lukashenko was declared winner of a fraud-ridden early August vote. Belarusian security forces have arrested more than 30,000 people.

  • Maryna Kavaleuskaya:

    Every Sunday morning, I wake up together with the hope that I won't get a report from Belarus about my friends being tortured, beaten up on the streets or sentenced to weeks or years of imprisonment.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Still, in the U.S., she says she has confidence in the people and institutions that defend democracy.

  • Maryna Kavaleuskaya:

    What we have in the United States, we have the country with checks and balances, with historically very strong rule of law and respect for courts, et cetera.

    But I would say one should not take these principles for granted. One should really care first and foremost about these key pillars of democracy that prevents your country from becoming another Belarus.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Last month, president-elect Joe Biden assured Americans he would attempt to restore that confidence nationwide.

    And what do you say to Americans, especially immigrant Americans who came to the United States looking for political stability and seeing all the things that the president is doing?

  • President-Elect Joseph Biden:

    Hang on. I'm on my way.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    As the transition formally continues, Akbar thinks America should take time to reflect.

  • Noorjahan Akbar:

    This is an opportunity to look at our choices. It's more violence, more chaos, more disregard for democracy, or really a moment of reflection of why we have come here, why this country has become what it is.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    A moment for reflection and hope that, as the president continues to insist the election was fraudulent, the country's institutions stand firm.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Yamiche Alcindor.

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