A Small Town Under Siege

"For Sale" signs mark the landscape of Postville, Iowa.
On front lawns across Postville, Iowa, there are signs of spring. Then there are signs that it is this spring.

Once home to 3,000 people, Postville's population has dwindled in a matter of months to just 1,800, reports CBS News correspondent Seth Doane.

"People are trying to be positive in the community, but it's wearing on them," said Kim Deering, the owner of the Wishing Well.

"Is it wearing on you?" Doane asked.

"Oh yeah," Deering said.

At the Wishing Well, business is off 30 percent, but at least Deering is still in business. Many of her neighbors cannot say the same.

For the past year, CBS News has followed the struggle here, which began last May, when Agriprocessors, a kosher meatpacking plant - and the town's largest employer - was raided by homeland security. Hundreds were arrested, accused of illegally working in the United States.

A few weeks ago, on the one year anniversary of the raid, church bells tolled 389 times, once for each person arrested. It served as a reminder - as if anyone here needed one.

"On top of the direct impact of the raid happening and people losing their jobs and income - there's no other jobs that they can go to," said Maryn Olson, with the Postville Response Coalition.

After the raid, some plant managers were convicted of supplying workers with fake identity papers. The plant's owner, Shalom Rubashkin, still awaits trial for bank fraud and a host of other charges.

The plant declared bankruptcy, leaving hundreds of legal workers without jobs, like Jeff and Holly Bohr. When we met back in November, they hadn't seen a paycheck for weeks.

"We're just struggling to survive," Jeff Bohr said.

Eventually, Agriprocessors did reopen, at just one-third capacity, and Holly got her job back.

Jeff had to leave town to find work. It means a pay cut, and a commute.

But it's not just pain in Postville. Last fall, when we met Irma Rucal, one of the undocumented plant workers, she wore a tracking anklet and awaited deportation. Just weeks ago, the device was removed.

"I started crying for joy," Rucal told Doane.

Rucal and her children can now legally stay in the United States, because she - and at least 20 others - have agreed to testify in the government's case against the plant. But Rucal's son realizes that while they have work permits, there is no work. They have depended on charity for housing, food and medical care. Local churches have donated about $1.2 million to those affected by the raid so far.

"Postville is an excellent opportunity for our elected officials - for our president and the administration to come and see what immigration raids do to communities," said Pastor Steve Brackett, with the St. Paul Lutheran Church. "We have the evidence right here."

Evidence like the "For Sale" signs on the front lawns here - signs that communities like Postville are at the center of the immigration debate.