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About the Congregation Action Network

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CAN Mission

The Congregation Action Network is a collective of more than 70 Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Humanist, Hindu, Buddhist, and other congregations in the DC Metro region, bringing faithful resistance to bear in the DC/MD/VA region to end detention, deportation, profiling, and criminalization of immigrants and demanding and upholding justice, dignity, safety, and family unity.


In early 2017, when the Trump Administration announced the Muslim ban and began broadening deportations beyond the already inhumane practices of the Obama administration, two organizations brought a vision for faith-based immigration advocacy to life. Faith in Action's LA RED campaign and Sanctuary DMV founded the DMV Sanctuary Congregation Network to put the power of faith to work for immigration justice. Renamed the Congregation Action Network (CAN) in 2019, The Congregation Action Network was a program of LA RED, Faith in Action's immigrant justice initiative, until May 2022. That month, CAN incorporated as an independent advocacy organization. Until CAN receives official recognition as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, the organization’s fiscal sponsor is The Festival Center in Washington, DC

"This is the way we live into our values and convictions. We are engaging in faithful resistance to unjust laws and inhumane practices."

- Rev. Abhi Janamanchi, Sr. Minister, Cedar Lane UU Church


In the face of hate and discrimination, the Network is committed to showing love, compassion, and hospitality.

A primary focus for the Network is Deportation Defense: pulling out all the stops to keep a neighbor facing deportation from being deported. This includes advocacy, community organizing, fundraising, family support, media outreach, and communications.


One CAN congregation - Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church in Bethesda, MD - has hosted Rosa Gutierrez Lopez in physical sanctuary since December 2018. Other congregations are ready to become physical sanctuaries if the need arises. Still others support Cedar Lane and Rosa. Here are other activities CAN members engage in to resist detentions and deportations and keep families united and free in our communities:


  • Accompany people to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) check-ins, court hearings and ankle monitor check-ins.

  • Serve on rapid response networks that respond to, report on and offer assistance to those targeted by ICE raids.

  • Hold Know Your Rights trainings or community canvasses.

  • Press local jurisdictions to get ICE out of schools, jails, and courts and to end all policies that racially profile and over-incarcerate people of color.

  • Press local jurisdictions and officials to resist ICE's and DHS's attempts to open new immigrant detention facilities in our communities.

Sign up for CAN email updates below to learn about the many ways you and your faith community can engage in Network actions. 

CAN's Structure & Leadership

In May 2022, when CAN became an independent organization, its Steering Committee voted to become a temporary Board of Directors. In June 2022, the board hired the organization's first executive director, Eli Johnson.

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A lifelong activist and organizer, Eli has held positions with the Guatemala Human Rights Commission, Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, and the American Friends Service Committee, leading federal advocacy on immigration, trade and US policy toward Latin America. 


A founding member of Sanctuary DMV, Eli has trained thousands of people in the DC region and planned dozens of protests and other actions. They hold a masters in public administration from the University of Washington and a BA in international trade from Western Washington University.


Read more here about CAN's governance and leadership structure.

Meet the CAN Steering Committee
Learn About Membership
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