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Immigration Raid Jars a Small Town

For now, Postville residents -- immigrants and native-born -- are holding their breath. On Greene Street, where the Hall Roberts' Son Inc. feed store, Kosher Community Grocery and Restaurante Rinconcito Guatemalteco sit side by side, workers fear a chain of empty apartments, falling home prices and business downturns. The main street, punctuated by a single blinking traffic signal, has been quiet; a Guatemalan restaurant temporarily closed; and the storekeeper next door reported a steady trickle of families quietly booking flights to Central America via Chicago.

"Postville will be a ghost town," said Lili, a Ukrainian store clerk who spoke on the condition that her last name be withheld.

But Cesar Jochol, 48, a native of Patzun, Guatemala, and owner of a market called Tonita's Express, questioned whether the raid will be a deterrent. People who can afford to eat meat only once or twice a week in Guatemala, while earning $4 a day, can earn $60 a day in Iowa, enough to eat beef or chicken three times a day, he said. "You take away a hundred people. A couple hundred more will come tomorrow; they'll just go to L.A., New York, New Jersey and Miami," said Jochol, a 21-year U.S. resident.

At St. Bridget's Catholic Church, Eduardo Santos, 27, who came from Guatemala and lost two of his fingers working at the factory, said the raid was "fair . . . but it's bad for everybody. There's no work." He plans to go home.

"The problem is, who is going to do the work?" said Stephen G. Bloom, a University of Iowa journalism professor who wrote a 2000 book on the clash of cultures in Postville as Agriprocessors' Lubavitch Jewish leaders gained influence in the mostly Lutheran town. "This is a no-win situation."

Staff researcher Madonna Lebling contributed to this report.


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