Founded in 1981 by members of the Santana Chirino Amaya Refugee Committee (SCARC) and the Southern California Ecumenical Council, El Rescate was the first agency in the United States to respond with free legal and social services to the mass influx of refugees fleeing the war in El Salvador. In 1983 El Rescate expanded to provide free medical and dental services to refugees with the Clínica Msr. Óscar Romero, named in honor of the archbishop slain in El Salvador in 1980. The original funding proposal submitted to the World Council of Churches and be seen here. The Clinica later became independent and continues to serve the immigrant community.
The Human Rights Department of El Rescate was established in 1984 to document violations of human rights in El Salvador and disseminate up-to-date information to the U.S. Congress, the media, the faith community, academics and others in the U.S. and Europe.
The 1990s began with El Rescate’s “Roll Call for Peace,” a public art installation listing the names of thousands of victims of the war, to mark the anniversary of the murder of Archbishop Romero.
In 1991 El Rescate staff and board members traveled to Mexico for the signing of the historic Chapultepec Peace Accords, that resulted in the conclusion of the 12-year Salvadoran civil war on January 16, 1992.
Post-war, El Rescate’s Index to Accountability, a unique database project linking military officers to human rights violations committed during the war, was presented to the United Nations-sponsored Ad-Hoc and Truth Commissions during their investigations and deliberations on cleansing the military and establishing a historic record of war crimes.
Since its inception El Rescate has participated in ground-breaking litigation including the 1982 Orantes-Hernández case challenging the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) arrest and detention policies on behalf of all Salvadorans.
In its ongoing effort to secure permanent legal residency for immigrants, El Rescate registered over 60,000 individuals during the first six months of the 1991 TPS (Temporary Protected Status) campaign to secure political refugee status for Salvadorans. El Rescate fought for the 1997 NACARA (Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act), for the 2001 TPS for Salvadorans, for DED (Deferred Enforced Departure) status and for political asylum. The fight for immigrants’ rights continues today with DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and for the rights of unaccompanied minors. (link to LA Times article) El Rescate participates in coalition efforts to advocate for non-recognized refugees and to combat the anti-immigrant policies of the current administration.
In its four-decade history El Rescate has served over 500,000 people, including immigrants representing 38 nationalities.
El Rescate is a non-profit 501 (C)(3). Our services are made possible through generous support and contributions by the community we serve and with funding by the State of California Department of Social Services.