Founded in 1981 by members of the Santana Chirino Amaya Refugee Committee (SCARC) and Sothern California Ecumenical Council, El Rescate was the first agency in the Unites States to respond with free legal and social services to the mass influx of refugees fleeing the war in El Salvador.

The 1990 began with El Rescate's "roll call for peace" to mark the tenth anniversary of the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero. El Rescate's traveled to El Salvador in 1991 for the signing of the historic Chapultepec Peace According, ending the Salvadorian Civil War in 1992. El Rescate's index ro Accountability, a database linking military officers to human right violations committed during the war, was used by the United Nations Adhoc and Truth Commissions in their deliberations on cleansing the Salvadorian military.

In its ongoing legal permanent residency effort, El Rescate registered over 60,000 individuals in the first six- month of its Temporary Protected Status (TPS) campaign in 1991 to secure political refugee status for Salvadorian. After passage to restrictive immigration laws in 1999, El Rescate fought for passage of the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA) which allowed ABC class members to have their cases considered earlier, less restrictive rules. The fight continues to this day.

El Rescate's services are made possible through the generous support and contribution of the community and through grants from the City of Los Angeles, United Nations. First Methodist Church, LA County Bar Foundation, United Bay, Western Union, GE Money, US Congress and others.

In the past 30 years, El Rescate has served more than half a million people.