Iowa Town Teeters On Edge Of Ruin

For months, CBS News has been following the deepening troubles of tiny Postville, Iowa, population 2,200. Now the shutdown of the town's main employer following a federal immigration raid has Postville at the point of desperation, CBS News correspondent Seth Doane reports.
Postville, Iowa was just decorated with holiday cheer. But looks can be deceiving.

"In the last few weeks - it's really gone downhill dramatically," says Mayor Bob Penrod.

With empty streets - and shuttered shops - this small town is facing economic calamity.

Penrod is taking steps this weekend to declare a state of emergency here - but not a natural disaster - rather one that's man-made.

"If we don't get some help from the state or federal government, we're going to be in deep trouble financially," Penrod says.

That's how Jeff Bohr and his wife, Holly feel.

"We were okay for a week or two weeks - but now we're going into the third week and we're just - struggling to survive," Jeff says.

Earlier this month - Jeff and Holly's employer, Agriprocessors, a kosher meat processing plant here suspended operations, and filed for bankruptcy protection. Once the town's largest employer - this was just the latest in a string of setbacks for the company - and for Postville.

It all started on May 12, 2008, when hundreds of federal immigration authorities raided Agriprocessors and arrested 389 workers.

Many like Irma Rucal were undocumented immigrants. Six months later she still wears a tracking anklet and waits for a court date.

"There are a lot of people in the U.S. who, frankly, wouldn't have a lot of sympathy for you," Doane reminded Rucal. "They would say you shouldn't haven't been here you were working illegally and you shouldn't be able to work here."

"They don't understand the poverty that we know in Guatemala," Rucal says. "I never hurt anyone here all I want to do is work."

She says she paid $14,000 to smuggle her 14-year-old son and 15-year-old daughter to the U.S. they say, even though they're minors, they worked at the plant along with their mother to pay down the debt. Now they may testify in a criminal case against the company.

"Do you sometimes wish that you had not come to the United States?" Doane asked the children.

"Yeah," Rucal's son says. "But this is the only place that you can come and make something of your life."

Meanwhile, back at Agriprocessors, the Bohrs wait patiently to find out if they will ever be able to go back to work.

Jeff, who's worked at the plant for 18-years, and Holly, there for 14, have not been laid-off yet.

So, each night they return - to see if the plant will re-open the following day.

"As the money's getting thinner, it's getting pretty tough," Jeff says. It's getting to be a sick feeling every day coming up here."

This night, there's more bad news: no work again. Even the security guard just comes out of habit.

"People think we're getting paid," says the security guard working that night. "We're not getting paid either."

The Bohrs have no idea what they'll do with Christmas around the corner, never mind a mortgage payment due on the first.

"I'm actually afraid to turn the TV on and see what company is asking for a bailout or foreclosing, or bankruptcy every day, because it's gonna eventually catch up to each and every one of us," Jeff says.