Edison, New Jersey residents Jerry Shi and Falguni Patel were shocked when, after deciding to run for seats on their local school board, fliers with the word ‘DEPORT’ stamped over their faces appeared in mailboxes around town days before the election.
Shi, who is Chinese-American, and Patel, who is Indian-American, are not the only minorities running for a seat on the school board. Out of nine candidates, one is Latin-American and three are Indian-American, according to Republican mayoral candidate Keith Hahn.
Edison is a diverse town demographically. According to the most recently available US Census data from 2015, 47.6 percent of the town’s population identifies as Asian, including both Asian Indian and Chinese, while 40.4 percent identifies as white.
The flier proclaiming ‘Make Edison Great Again,’ ‘Chinese and Indians are taking over our town’ and ‘Enough is Enough’ surprised local leaders and law enforcement officials.
“A vile, racist campaign flyer has been distributed around Edison Township. Our community proudly embraces our ethnic, cultural and religious diversity,” said Mayor Thomas Lankey in a statement. “Make no mistake, we will do everything possible to expose the shameful people behind this.”
The Edison Police Department and the bias crimes unit of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office are investigating the incident, according to Edison Police Chief Tom Bryan. Officials have not determined who sent the fliers at this time, Bryan said. State law requires campaign literature denote who has paid for it.
“The racist message shocks the conscience and is highly offensive,” said Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew Carey in a statement. “It has yet to be determined as whether or not a chargeable bias or other crime has been committed.”
Shi, who is running for re-election, and Patel said they will not be deterred by the fliers.
“Edison is a wonderful community full of amazing people of all backgrounds, this is our strength. So, we will not be distracted by these unfortunate attacks. They are un-American and not the Edison we know,” Shi and Patel said in a joint statement. “We will continue to focus on our campaign and work for the students and taxpayers of this town that we love.”