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Erin Williams | | 202-748-0699

Name change reflects mission focus and intersectional nature of immigration justice

WASHINGTON – The DMV Sanctuary Congregation Network, a coalition of faith-based institutions throughout DC and the Maryland and Virginia suburbs, has changed its name to the Congregation Action Network (CAN) to more accurately reflect the nature of its mission, to account for the intersectional nature of immigration justice, and to avoid confusion with similarly named organizations in the region.

The Congregation Action Network is a growing network of more than 100 faith communities with a mission of acting in solidarity to end detention, deportation, profiling, and criminalization of immigrants and demanding justice, dignity, safety, and family unity.

“The Network lives this mission from a religious perspective. All mainstream faith traditions profess ‘welcoming the stranger,’ and our network congregations take action locally and at the federal level to live those values,” said Omar Angel Perez, CAN’s lead organizer. “These actions include actively defending an individual against deportation, offering physical sanctuary in a faith community, educating elected officials about the effects and implications of immigration policies, accompanying those under threat to court and ICE appointments, and offering solidarity and support to individuals and their families.”

CAN was founded as the DMV Sanctuary Congregation Network in 2017 as a project of Faith in Action and Sanctuary DMV, a secular immigrant advocacy group. CAN is now an organizing project of Faith in Action and partners with Sanctuary DMV and other immigration justice groups on a variety of projects. In recent months, the organization has been involved with the case of Rosa Gutierrez Lopez, a mother of three U.S.-born children who has taken sanctuary at Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church in Bethesda in hopes of avoiding deportation and filing a stay of removal.

“As the administration has put in place increasingly immoral immigration practices, our Network has seen a dramatic increase in those seeking our intervention,” said Rev. Charlene Belsom Zellmer, an interfaith minister and CAN leader. “Some of those, like Rosa Gutierrez Lopez, have been seeking our support from outside the DMV. As communities of faith we are inspired to offer radical hospitality to those threatened with deportation and their families.”

“Network leaders found aspects of the original name – like “DMV” and “Sanctuary” – to be limiting, so explored names that more aptly described the Network’s expanding mission. “The key word that was missing from our name was ‘action,’” said Pastor Julio Hernandez, a Network member and youth pastor at Christ Crossman United Methodist Church in Falls Church, Va. “This is a group that lives its values in the world through strong actions based on love, compassion, and grace.”

CAN has changed its name on all social media handles and is working on the development of a new website. Look for the Network on Facebook and Twitter.


Faith in Action, formerly known as PICO National Network, is the largest grassroots, faith-based organizing network in the United States. The nonpartisan organization works with 1,000 religious congregations in more than 200 cities and towns through its 46 local and state federations. For more information, visit

Faith in Action is a 501c(3). Faith in Action and its affiliates are non-partisan and are not aligned explicitly or implicitly with any candidate or party. We do not endorse or support candidates for office.