Updated:GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga.,None —
Tucked away in a tiny shack, hidden behind a golf course maintenance shed, workers appeared to be living on the property, Channel 2 Action News cameras saw. Their clothing, shoes, a mattress and other items were all crammed inside.
"Two people living in that small space, smaller than a prison cell," said a tipster who wanted to remain anonymous. But he was so disturbed by what he'd seen that he shot hidden camera video showing one of the men answering the door in his boxer shorts.
"I was shocked. It's unbelievable that somebody would let them live in those conditions," said the tipster.
Channel 2 investigative reporter Jodie Fleischer watched the men work at The Hooch golf course on Peachtree Industrial Boulevard in Duluth. A public records search lists three current residents at that address. The camera captured four men coming and going from the shed area, which is equipped with pots and pans, a refrigerator and even a pet dog.
"It's certainly not the quality of life we want in metro Atlanta, but you have to be careful when you're trying to identify who people are legally or illegally," said Georgia immigration expert Phil Kent.
Fleischer contacted Duluth police after seeing one of the men holding what appeared to be a rifle. Six patrol officers and a code enforcement truck went right over.
"You just write up code violations and that's that?" Fleischer asked.
"Correct," replied code enforcement officer Steve Lykins. "They get a certified letter if it's determined he's living in there and they're given a certain amount of days to move."
That letter says the golf course owner must cease and desist from using the "storage shed as a residential unit", because "the space is not suitable for human occupancy."
"Does it matter if he's working here illegally?" Fleischer asked Lykins.
"Not as far as code enforcement," he replied.
"What about with the police department?" she asked.
"That's up to them," Lykins answered.
They did help search the living area.
"We have a BB gun, so that's it," said one officer.
The officers checked to make sure the men had no outstanding warrants and left.
"We have very strict parameters we have to follow under the law. We did everything we could do," said Duluth police Maj. Don Woodruff.
Phil Kent said even under the new law, officers could only take action if the men were suspected of a crime, which they weren't. But Georgia's new immigration law could still have an impact.
"As of July 1, if the owner is not using E-Verify and that is checking out the federal database to see who is legal as an employee, that would be the part of the law that would kick in and affect these people," Kent said.
One office employee told Fleischer he didn't know the men were living in the shack. The golf course general manager admitted she did.
"We already gave them notice to move out last month," said Young Park.
She said the men were staying overnight to provide security. And that they are legal workers.
"There is not illegal, we already check it out," she said.
Fleischer asked, "Can you show us their papers to show that they're legal?"
"Uh, we don't have a responsibility to you," Park replied.
They don't have to show police either.
The tipster says it's a tough situation. "They're probably just trying to do the best they can," he said. "But if they're illegal aliens, then they're taking jobs away from citizens that deserve to be here."
Georgia's new immigration law takes effect July 1.
Earlier this week, a judge put on hold a portion of the law that would have allowed officers to investigate the immigration status of suspects who they believe have committed a crime and those who cannot produce identification.