On January 1, Edison police officers detained a busload of immigrants on their way to New York City.

EDISON, NJ—“No one get off the bus yet.”

That was the order from the Edison Police Department (EPD), directed at the more than three dozen immigrants sitting in an idling vehicle at the Edison train station after traveling more than 2,100 miles from El Paso, Texas.

It was the start of an unusual police interaction, one that appeared to end peacefully a half-hour later. But it went on to spark an internal affairs investigation, national media attention, and an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) lawsuit targeting the Township.

New Brunswick Today filed the lawsuit, with the help of an OPRA attorney, after the EPD failed to release official recordings they were holding onto from the encounter.

Videos recorded by the body-worn cameras on each of the four responding officers’ uniforms depict their questionable detention of approximately 38 people, most of whom were not allowed to get off the bus for the duration of the interaction.

The recordings also capture the group of responding cops bantering among themselves about the situation, joking and fantasizing about sicking a “drug dog” on the immigrants and escorting the bus out of town at gunpoint.

“Have your service weapon pointed out the window at all times,” joked Officer Zachary Dlabik.

“Get out of Edison!” added Officer Spadaro, making his hand into the shape of a gun.

“Yee-haw! Corralin’ ’em out,” says Dlabik, pretending to fire his fingers into the air like guns.

Dlabik’s tone turned serious, as he walked with his colleagues to an idling police cruiser and lamented the situation that was playing out just a couple of hours into the New Year.

“I can’t believe this is our country, that this just happens. It’s an actual invasion. It’s actually happening,” Dlabik continued.

“You ever see Red Dawn?” Officer William Kenney then asks his colleague, apparently referencing the 1984 film (or the 2012 re-make) about a fictional invasion of the United States.

“Instead of paratroopers, it’s fuckin’ buses,” said Kenney. “Maybe there’s about 20 more [people] underneath the undercarriage of that bus.”

In the days that followed, Edison’s Mayor Samip “Sam” Joshi gave television interviews claiming to have a bus “on standby” to transport immigrants back to the US-Mexico border.

Now that the videos of what actually happened have been released, Joshi has little to say, declining to comment on the recordings, or say if he felt the Edison Police handled the situation appropriately.


A News12 graphic shows four train stations where immigrants were bused.

In the last two days of 2023, about 400 immigrants from the US-Mexico border arrived in New Jersey, mostly to ride trains into New York City.

Despite Joshi’s claim the immigrants were “illegal,” it was widely understood the bus riders were individuals legally seeking asylum after fleeing their home countries, a recognized right under international law.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, since at least April 2022, Texas Governor Greg Abbott has spent over $124 million in state funds to transport immigrants from the US-Mexico border to cities in other regions of the country, including New York City.

The immigrants hail from places like Venezuela, where more than 7.7 million people have left “in search of protection and a better life,” according to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), with most relocating to other Latin American or Caribbean nations.

Since 2022, New York City has faced a “migrant crisis” that has been exacerbated by the high cost of housing.

On December 27, that city’s Mayor, ex-cop Eric Adams, issued a new decree meant to limit immigrant bus drop-offs to certain hours and locations, in an attempt to restrict arrivals.

According to the New York Times, Adams’ order stated that buses could only arrive Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. and required drivers to have passenger manifests. Bus operators that don’t follow the rules are subject to fines and impoundment of buses under the order, which still remains in effect today.

Because the order prohibited drop-offs on weekends, and December 30 and 31 marked the first weekend since it took effect, New Jersey soon started to see bus operators implement a workaround: dropping passengers off at New Jersey Transit train stations and getting them tickets to New York City.

This led to what was termed an “absolute freakout” by NJ Monitor’s Terrence McDonald.

Shortly after the clock struck midnight on the night of December 30, a bus with about 40 people on it arrived at Edison Train Station, only to find the last train bound for New York had already left, according to an NJ Transit Police Department (NJTPD) record.

NJTPD responded to the station and documented that about half the passengers left the bus and dispersed before it departed with the remaining passengers.

“All night long, we’ve been getting these buses full of migrants from Texas,” said NJTPD Sgt. William Bowdler in a recorded call to inform Edison of the arrival of the bus.

Bowdler described how the “coordinators” of the buses were buying train tickets for their passengers to avoid the restrictions on bus arrivals.

“New York said they wanted ’em right?” Bowdler says with a laugh.

When a second bus arrived the following night, Edison Police responded and questioned the two English-speaking women who appeared to be in charge of the group.

NJ Transit has not yet answered a dozen questions about the Edison incidents, saying since May 1 that they were “looking into” New Brunswick Today’s questions.


Edison officers shown in the videos repeatedly indicated the bus and its passengers would have to leave the entire 30 square-mile Township, a potential violation of their civil rights.

According to Title 18, Section 242 of the US Code, it’s a crime for “any person acting under color of law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom to willfully deprive or cause to be deprived from any person those rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution and laws of the U.S.”

Those rights include the right to travel on public roads and use transportation facilities like buses and train stations.

“This law further prohibits a person acting under color of law, statute, ordinance, regulation or custom to willfully subject or cause to be subjected any person to different punishments, pains, or penalties… on account of such person being an alien,” according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Park America, the operator of the parking lot where the incident occurred, confirmed the lot is open to the public around the clock.

In the videos, the four officers on scene never established or stated any reason to investigate the bus other than the people on it were believed to be immigrants, which could leave the officers in trouble if they are ever investigated for federal civil rights violations.

Another section of the US Code (Title 18, Section 245), prohibits “willful… intimidation or interference or attempt to do so, by force or threat of force of any person because of race, color, religion, or national origin and because of his/her activity as… a traveler or user of any facility of interstate commerce or common carrier.”

According to the laws, penalties for violators can include a fine and imprisonment of up to one year.

“Who’s in charge of all this?” asked Spadaro, the first EPD officer to arrive.

“Uh, the government,” responds the woman, who identifies herself as a “security guard” with a company called “Statewide,” based in San Antonio, Texas.

“We work for the Governor. Governor Abbott,” said one of the guards, name-dropping Abbott’s “Operation Lone Star.”

“There’s other cops coming,” Spadaro told the woman. “So no one is getting off this bus until I ID you guys and then we’ll figure out what’s going on.”

Her and another colleague showed the cops their state security licenses from Texas, along with driver’s licenses from that state. The version of the video recordings provided as a result of our lawsuit were altered by Edison Township to omit the names of the two women.

The security guards responsible for the group eventually learned that the cops primarily wanted them to leave Edison altogether.

“You’re free to leave, you can’t just drop off 40 people,” Sgt. John Cercatore told the women. “Our whole plan is to find out where you’re going… We’re just [here] to make sure that there’s no additional location in Edison that you guys are going to.”

Shortly after that statement, the two in charge of the group said they were ready to leave.

“We’re gonna go. We’re gonna go,” said the woman who had just gotten off the phone.

But Cercatore really wanted to know their next destination, and admitted their motivation was to get them to leave the Township. He asked where they are going three times in just ten seconds.

“We’re going to another—we’re going,” said the woman, deciding not to tell the inquiring officers where they would be going next.

“We don’t care where the location is. We just want to make sure it’s not in Edison,” said Cercatore.

“No, we’re not. We’re going away from Edison.”

Just before wishing the woman “safe travels,” while she steps out of earshot, Officer Spadaro jokes about her having “kilos” of drugs in a suitcase and calling for a “drug dog.”

As the bus prepares to leave the station, Cercatore orders Spadaro to “see them out of town and see where they go,” adding he’s “dead serious.”

With a laugh, he says: “Your job is to make sure they don’t go anywhere else in Edison.”


Like Mayor Adams, Edison Mayor Sam Joshi saw a spotlight shined on his handling of the immigrant buses.

According to email logs obtained through the OPRAmachine platform, Politico Editor Dustin Racioppi was the first person to reach out directly to Joshi via email on the immigrant issue as it unfolded.

With the subject line “Migrants,” Racioppi’s message came at 4:28pm on December 31, following the situation handled by NJTPD but before the incident involving EPD.

Less than two hours after receiving that email, Joshi issued a social media post taking a hard line against the immigrants, incorrectly referring to them as “illegal migrants” and predictably stoking controversy by threatening to play the same game as Governor Abbott.

Joshi, who also holds the role of Edison’s civilian Director of Public Safety, posted: “If any bus, train or plane of illegal migrants come to Edison, I have instructed our law enforcement and emergency management departments to charter a bus to transport the illegal migrants right back to the southern Texas/Mexican border.”

While his post sparked both outrage and support for him, it also could have influenced how Edison’s police officers handled their interaction with the bus some eight hours later.

Sam Joshi campaigning for Mayor with Congressman Frank Pallone in 2021

The newly-released video recordings don’t depict any actual efforts to charter a bus, and it was never mentioned as a viable option by the officers on scene.

But that didn’t stop Joshi from continuing to talk about his own fantasy busing plans.

The Mayor responded to Racioppi’s email at 8:41am on New Year’s Day. By then, it was clear the New York City media would soon seize upon the story, and possibly national media outlets, too.

By noon, television, radio, and print media outlets had all reached out to Joshi for interviews, just the beginning of a whirlwind of free publicity for the Mayor.

Meanwhile, Joshi’s online statement blew up with comments. With precious little information available to the public about the police responses to the immigrant buses, the talk of the town focused instead on Joshi’s tough talk, and not what actually happened at the Edison train station.

At least one high-level Middlesex County official chimed in to support Joshi’s statement.

“Quite a bold statement for the action and clarifies a lot about your commitment for legal immigration… Keep it up good job,” wrote Middlesex County Planning Board member Hemant Patel.

But not everyone was pleased with the Mayor. Longtime Edison resident Richard Lord wrote that he voted for Joshi in 2021 and was disappointed to see him violate his oath to the US Constitution and “act like… southern segregationists.”

Lord wrote in all capital letters that Joshi’s threats to charter his own bus for immigrants “SOUNDS A WHOLE LOT LIKE CONSPIRACY TO KIDNAP A BUS LOAD OF PEOPLE.”

“MAYBE we have another politician saying he is going to do something with no intent to actually ever do it just so he can manipulate fear and hate in the suckers he is fleecing.”


Vision Media’s Phil Swibinski helped draft language for Mayor Sam Joshi.

While January 1 was officially a holiday, at least one public relations professional was working to help Joshi navigate the erupting issue.

Phil Swibinski, spokesperson for numerous political figures and organizations, sent Joshi an email with the subject line “Migrant PR Draft” at 9:28am on New Year’s Day.

Swibinski did not respond to emailed questions about how long he’s worked with Joshi and what advice he gave Joshi about the situation back in January.

Swibinski also didn’t say whether his firm, Vision Media Marketing, Inc. (VMMI) was working for Joshi himself or for the Township of Edison. According to the company’s website, both the Township and Joshi’s political campaign have been VMMI’s clients.

After hearing from Swibinski, Joshi continued to defend the police department’s actions and disparage the immigrants.

Instead of stopping at busing the immigrants back to Texas, Joshi’s comments to News12 suggested his administration would send them back to the Mexican side of the border.

“I want to make it clear… they’re not welcome here,” Joshi told News12. “I had directed my police department to charter a bus that would take them straight back to the other side of the border.”

Of course, that’s not what actually happened when the police department responded to the January 1 incident.

Joshi told ABC’s Toni Yates that “Edison Township Police Officers did not know if any of those 40 people were carrying weapons.”

“They couldn’t be identified, and that’s a major problem. It’s a security risk. It’s a health risk, and we’re just not going to tolerate that.”

Those statements are also dubious in light of the recordings, which show Officer Spadaro was initially asked to identify everyone on the bus, but ultimately no one did that.

The recordings also depict Officer Dlabik implying the people on the bus could have “anything” on them, although the security guards indicated they had all been “checked” before getting on the bus in El Paso.

In subsequent TV interviews, Joshi has repeated his supposed directives to send new immigrants far away, taking the rhetoric even further by threatening to conduct what would effectively be illegal deportations in at least one interview.

On January 3, Joshi released a scripted, professional-quality video clarifying his position on the controversy, again receiving mixed reactions from his audience.

Support for Joshi’s stance sometimes came from uncomfortable places. For example, former Edison Police Sgt. Alex Glinsky wrote a comment on Joshi’s video: “You and the councils job is to stand up for the citizens of Edison Township. Which you did!!!”

Glinsky was notorious for misconduct during his time as a police officer, including repeated allegations that he routinely pulled over Black motorists and told them to “get the fuck out of town,” according to a certified statement from a former EPD internal affairs commander.

In fact, in an article published more than a decade ago, and re-shared by Joshi in 2019, Joshi was quoted calling for the federal government to investigate Glinsky.


Former Assemblywoman Sadaf Jaffer has criticized Mayor Joshi’s stance.

Despite his efforts to spin a story, Joshi was criticized by an outgoing State Assemblywoman, multiple members of Township Council, and more than 30 local, state, and regional organizations.

“You have engaged in a public fear-mongering campaign in the media about a mere two bus loads of people that simply passed through your city of 109,000 people a few days ago,” reads a joint letter to Joshi from the organizations.

“They never intended for Edison to be their final destination, yet you began falsely ‘raising the alarm’ and stoking fear,” it continues.

“Your demonization of these people, who are already pawns of the political gamesmanship of the Texas governor, is making the people in your own community less safe. Do you really think that the xenophobic sentiment you are helping to whip up will be unleashed only against the people on buses from Texas?” the organizations asked Joshi.

Now-former Assemblywoman Sadaf Jaffer told NJ Spotlight News that Joshi’s statements stemmed from ignorance about the immigration histories of South Asians and other groups.

Despite the organized pushback from people close to him, Joshi has not apologized for his handling of the incidents, or the rhetoric he used at the time.

“Well, I’m glad I took the position that I did. I stand by it 100%,” Joshi told Joey Bloch in a recent Fox Sports New Jersey interview.

Most establishment officials here in Middlesex County neither condemned nor praised Joshi’s moves publicly, including all seven members of the Board of County Commissioners.

The Commissioners actually changed their practices to prevent the public from speaking about matters of general interest to the county government at their January 4 re-organization meeting, effectively preventing the public from asking about the controversy.

Later that night, Joshi showed up in Edison for his Township Council’s re-organization meeting, but he left the meeting before any public comments could be made.

When we finally asked the County Commissioners about Joshi’s controversial approach to the immigrant issue on May 2, Commissioner Director Ronald Rios gave a neutral answer.

“I’m a firm believer of home rule, and how everybody wants to run their local municipal government,” said Rios.

“I’m not going to comment on any kind of individual’s behavior because that’s an opinion that everybody’s entitled to, and I’m not saying I agree or disagree.”


New Brunswick Today is a community news outlet based in New Brunswick, NJ since 2011.

The footage released today was only made public because of a lawsuit filed by New Brunswick Today, with the help of attorney CJ Griffin of the firm Pashman Stein.

“It took a lawsuit to get these videos,” Griffin explained, adding that if a pending proposal by Assemblyman Joe Danielsen passes into law, it would make it harder if not impossible to challenge most denials of access to records like these videos.

“You got a denial,” Griffin told this reporter. “You objected very ferociously, and they still denied it, and we had to sue to get it… and if this OPRA bill passes then we wouldn’t have been able to sue.”

Griffin took this case on contingency because she thought it was a ridiculous denial on Edison’s part, and that there was value in forcing the videos of the incident to be released.

But, if Danielsen’s bill A4045 becomes law, the rules that allow Griffin to get paid by the agency that violated the OPRA would be adjusted unfavorably, making it much harder for attorneys to take cases on for small news organizations with limited resources like NBT.

In this case, our lawsuit came after the Edison Police Department repeatedly delayed and then illegally denied our January 2 request for the recordings under the OPRA and completely ignored our request that the records be released under the common law right of access.

Once the Township’s attorneys were served with our lawsuit, they apparently decided to release the video recordings to New Brunswick Today, like the EPD should have done back in January.

The OPRA requires records to be provided within seven business days of a request by default, but in practice, agencies like Edison Township can easily delay the process by claiming the need for an “extension.”

But in this case it did not appear Edison’s requests for extensions were made in good faith.

Joshi’s administration gave us the runaround, at first asking for more time to produce the videos.

The EPD’s “Central Records” office declared they would need extensions to produce the records on January 12 and again on January 26. We asked why they would need more time, and the response was nonsense: “To the voluminous of the request.”

Then on February 16, the EPD said it required an additional extension, only to outright deny the request the following week, explaining they would not release the video due to it being evidence in an Internal Affairs investigation, although that is not a valid reason under the OPRA to deny access to such records.

As outlined in CJ Griffin’s complaint filed in Superior Court on April 8, “the ongoing investigation exemption cannot apply because disclosure would not be inimical to the public interest and because the videos were created before the IA investigation began. In fact, the IA investigation almost certainly began after [NBT] filed its OPRA request.”

“[Edison Township] claims there is an ongoing internal affairs investigation and it believes the [Internal Affairs Policies & Procedures] exempts the videos,” wrote Griffin. “This is false. A [body-worn camera] video is not exempt simply because it captured conduct that later led to an IA investigation.”

As for the outcome of the Internal Affairs investigation, it’s another EPD secret thus far.

Edison Police Chief Thomas Bryan and Deputy Chief Robert Dudash both failed to respond to multiple messages left with their staff and via email.

It’s not the first time we’ve had to file a lawsuit to get government records that should have been released upon request, but it is the first time we’ve challenged Edison Township.

This reporter and New Brunswick Today have previously brought successful OPRA lawsuits against the City of New Brunswick, the County of Middlesex, the New Brunswick Housing Authority, and the New Brunswick Board of Education.

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Editor at New Brunswick Today | 732-993-9697 | editor@newbrunswicktoday.com | Website

Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate, a community organizer, and a former independent candidate for mayor of New Brunswick.

Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate, a community organizer, and a former independent candidate for mayor of New Brunswick.