Las Cruces Faith Community Rallies Around Unjustly Detained Mother

May 17, 2017

Son will tell of mom’s arrest, detention for the first time at prayer vigil on Thursday, May 18 at 4 p.m.

LAS CRUCES – A Las Cruces mom remains detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) a week after her and her son were targeted by the agency. Clergy and religious leaders are now rallying around her in an effort to get her released and prevent her from being deported.

On Tuesday, May 9, unidentified agents in unmarked vehicles detained Francia Elena Benitez-Castaño and her 23-year-old son Jefferson Taborda, who have lived in the community for nearly 20 years, and have established deep ties with Our Lady of Health Catholic Church of Las Cruces.

“Francia and her family are integral members of our congregation, and are beloved within our community,” said Carmen Sanchez, community leader and a member of our Lady of Health Church. “Mothers belong with their children and Francia belongs with hers. We demand she be granted a stay of removal and reunited with her family.”

While Benitez-Castaño remains in custody, Taborda was released on Friday, May 12. Taborda, having entered the country at four-years-old, is eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status.

Community and religious leaders will host a prayer vigil at Our Lady of Health Catholic Church (1178 N Mesquite St.) on May 18 at 4 p.m. in support of Benitez- Castaño. The vigil is organized by NM Comunidades en Acción y de Fé (CAFé) a federation of PICO National Network, the largest national faith-based community organizing network. At the vigil, Taborda will share his story publicly for the first time. Other speakers include Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces and Father Rubén Romero of Our Lady of Health Catholic Church.

As it has done successfully in other deportation prevention cases, most recently ensuring Catalino Guerrero, a grandfather in New Jersey, received a stay of deportation, PICO is activating its organizations to make calls on behalf of Benitez-Castaño. Across the country, supporters will call Alfredo Fierro, deputy Field Office director, to request Benitez-Castaño be granted a stay of deportation.

“We gather to make it clear to Deputy Fierro that no one stands alone – not Francia, not anyone in this community – and we will keep showing up until Francia is reunited with her family and allowed to stay in a country that has been her home for nearly two decades,” said Allex Luna, NM Café community organizer.

Benitez-Castaño came to the United States in 1998 with her husband and then four-year-old son from Colombia on visas. They arrived in Miami and immediately traveled to El Paso to stay with a friend. Soon after, they relocated to Las Cruces, NM where they have resided since.

That same year, the family applied for asylum. They came to the United States seeking safety and feared for their lives if they returned to Colombia. In 2002, their application was finally denied and they were ordered removed. However, with no criminal record, all members of the family have remained low priorities for deportation.

Benitez-Castaño has been self- employed as a housekeeper for the past decade. Taborda is an alumnus of Las Cruces High School who graduated last year with a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice from New Mexico State University. The family’s youngest son is a U.S. citizen and a freshman in high school.

Who: NM Comunidades en Acción y de Fé (CAFé)

What: Prayer vigil in support of Francia Elena Benitez-Castaño to demand she be granted a stay of removal

When: Thursday, May 18 at 4 p.m.

Where: Our Lady of Health Catholic Church (1178 N Mesquite St.)


NM Comunidades en Acción y de Fé (CAFé) is a non-partisan, non-denominational 501c3 organization that is part of the PICO National Network, the largest faith-based community organization in the country. We are a multi-faith, multicultural group that trains and builds the capacity of low and moderate-income families to help shape public policies aimed at improving people’s quality of life in New Mexico. We do not endorse or support any candidates for office. CAFe is part of the PICO National Network.

PICO National Network is the largest grassroots, faith-based organizing network in the United States. PICO works with 1,000 religious congregations in more than 200 cities and towns through its 45 local and state federations. PICO and its federations are non-partisan and do not endorse or support candidates for office. PICO urges people of faith to consult their faith traditions for guidance on specific policies and legislation. Learn more at


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