Forget the New England charm, forget the busy summer tourist season that fuels the local economy – a Cape Cod town council has declared its community is “not a sanctuary for illegal aliens” and has unanimously passed a bylaw to fine businesses $1,000 that employ undocumented workers and to revoke their licenses if they do it repeatedly.

The Sandwich, Mass., Board of Selectmen voted 5-to-0 Thursday evening to attempt to control the influx of illegal immigrants by penalizing the employers who hire them.

“It is very clear that our country is now in the midst of one of the greatest threats to its existence in our history,” Selectman Douglas Dexter, who proposed the order, said. “There are millions of criminal aliens invading our cities and towns and destroying the social services and legal systems of our communities.”

Sandwich is a seaside community of 23,000 residents located in the northwest corner of Cape Cod. Incorporated in 1639, it’s is the oldest town on Cape Cod and one of the oldest towns in the U.S., settled by European immigrants nearly 150 years before the American Revolution.

The proposed bylaw will not take effect until a vote by town meeting, which is expected to be held this fall.

Of the 14,000 registered voters in Sandwich, 3,531 are Democrats and 3,138 are Republicans. All five elected selectmen are registered Republicans.

Dexter said his proposal wasn’t motivated by specific concerns in Sandwich, but, rather, frustration with the federal government’s failure to deal with illegal immigration and enforce existing laws.

“We have politicians who have turned to mush,” he said.

A portion of Dexter’s proposal that would have declared English the official language of Sandwich was rejected by his fellow selectmen who were concerned it might offend some of the town’s foreign visitors.

Despite the unanimous support for the measure, several of the selectmen voting in the affirmative expressed concern about the bylaw’s legality and the town’s ability to enforce it.

According to Sandwich’s town administrator, Dexter’s proposal was submitted to the town attorney but has not yet been fully reviewed.

Terence Burke, a spokesman for State Attorney General Tom Reilly told the Cape Cod Times he could not comment on the bylaw’s legality, but that “the Attorney General believes the flow of illegal immigrants into our country and the failure of the Bush administration to enforce our immigration laws is a significant national problem that requires a broad national solution. This problem shouldn’t be solved state by state, city by city or town by town.”

Dr. Jacqueline Fields, the Sandwich representative to the Barnstable County’s Human Rights Commission, said she had not known of the proposed bylaw, but criticized “the unfortunate use of language” by Dexter and other board members. “We need to use language that is less inflammatory and less derogatory,” she said.

Dexter is undaunted and unapologetic.

“What part of illegal don’t they understand? When they come over the border they are illegal,” he said “I don’t intend to go hunting for illegal aliens, but we need to take a stand. Most good laws act as a deterrent, rather than a punishment.”

Wendy Northcross, president of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce, expressed concern over the measure, noting that Cape Cod’s tourist economy depends heavily on immigrants on temporary visas, particularly during the summer months when the workforce swells from 100,000 to 125,000. “The whole reason the country is involved in this debate is because immigrants are doing the jobs that Americans don’t want to do,” she said.

Dexter is quick to point out that the bylaw only targets those hired without valid visas or work permits. “I said legal immigrants are welcome – l-e-g-a-l with a capital L,” he said.

Federal law requires employers to document employees’ citizenship with an I-9 form. As WorldNetDaily has reported, the federal program in existence for the past nine years permits employers to use the Internet to instantly verify prospective hires’ legal eligibility to work in the U.S., but is used by less that 1/10 of 1 percent of the nation’s companies because it is voluntary, under-publicized and puts its users at a competitive disadvantage to firms who continue to hire illegal workers.

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