Edison Mayor Sam Joshi should apologize for saying he wants to send migrants back across the southern border, residents and council members said Thursday. (Courtesy of Edison)
Dhruv Shah met Edison Mayor Sam Joshi for the first time at a Model U.N. conference in high school.
Shah said he was excited to see someone who looks like him in a position of leadership in government. Now, Shah said he’s disappointed after Joshi’s recent comments about chartering a bus to send migrants dropped off in Edison back to the southern border.
“I’m so disappointed that the mayor is unable to empathize with asylum seekers and migrants who are leaving their homes in search of safety and greater opportunity, just like my parents did,” he said. “New Jersey, and especially Edison, thrive because of immigrants.”
During a tense town council meeting Thursday night, residents and council members condemned Joshi’s comments, with several demanding an apology.
The meeting came days after roughly 1,000 asylum seekers sent by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott by bus to New York City started stopping in New Jersey in an apparent attempt to flout the city’s new regulations on when and where migrants can be dropped off. Most of the migrants who arrived in various New Jersey towns ended up in New York City, state officials have said.
Joshi, a Democrat, told News 12 that the town’s position is migrants are “not welcome here, they’re illegal, and they belong on the other side of the border.” He directed the police department to charter a bus “that would take them straight back to the other side of the border.”
He’s since expanded on his comments in a Facebook video, saying Edison does not have the financial resources to house undocumented migrants. That is a federal responsibility, he said.
Joshi said he’s “mindful of the many barriers and challenges the immigration process may bring,” adding that many of his family members and Edison residents went through the process “legally.” He did not respond to a request for comment Friday.
Abbott has pledged to continue busing migrants out of Texas, saying places like New York City have seen a “fraction” of what Texas border towns face daily.
For nearly an hour Thursday night, residents and immigrant activists called for a more accepting response from local leaders. Some of them noted that in nearby Highland Park, community leaders have launched an immigration response program.
Catalina Adorno is an organizer with Moviemiento Cosecha, an immigrant rights group fighting for permanent protection for all immigrants. She said organizations across New Jersey were discouraged by hearing that Edison wanted to “nail the door shut for newly arrived people.”
“Edison is not suffering from a lack of resources. It is suffering from a lack of empathy and compassion, and its leadership is also suffering from a lack of imagination,” she said.
She noted Edison’s residents are roughly 45% immigrants, and that Joshi is the son of immigrants. She also stressed that there was never any intention for Edison to be the final destination for these migrants, and accused Joshi of stoking fear.
Cara Morio, the granddaughter of Spanish immigrants, said she has family in Edison and was disappointed in the town’s response to the migrants. She volunteered in Washington, D.C., last year to greet migrants who were coming off buses and has heard stories of people fleeing cartels and journeying on foot through harsh terrain.
“Imagine my disappointment when I heard that Mayor Joshi stated publicly that he was against sanctuary cities. It seemed like many towns in New Jersey have always been a town where immigrants have arrived and thrived,” she said. “Seeking asylum is not a decision to be made for political gain.”
The Democratic-majority council largely denounced the mayor’s comments. One said the council should form a subcommittee on the issue, another urged residents who “are willing to give up a room” for asylum seekers to leave their contact information with the town’s clerk.
“The mayor, who happens to be the son of immigrants, I don’t think he really understands what immigration means,” said Councilman Ajay Patil, a first-generation immigrant himself.
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