José left El Salvador for San Francisco in 1980 after narrowly escaping a government death squad attack that left four others dead. In 1981 he became the executive director of Casa El Salvador. Under his leadership, Casa El Salvador built broad-based support for political refugees, and helped create the strong solidarity movement that called for an end to unjust immigration policies, US military intervention, and the war in El Salvador. José worked closely with religious leaders in the San Francisco Bay Area to develop the Sanctuary Movement and the National Sanctuary Defense Fund. The Sanctuary’s legal advocacy compelled the federal government to reopen political asylum cases for hundreds of thousands of refugees and grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Central Americans, later upgraded to permanent residency for certain classes of refugees.
In the mid 1980s, José launched the Interfaith Office of Accompaniment with El Salvador, which organized delegations to El Salvador to document human rights abuses and to accompany the people’s struggle. In 1987, José co-led the Going Home Campaign with the SHARE Foundation, organizing hundreds of religious and laypeople to accompany the return of thousands of Salvadorans from a Honduran refugee camp. The United Nations and the Red Cross adopted the campaign as a model for repatriation around the world. In El Salvador, José attended night school at the Catholic University of America and earned his Bachelor of Arts degree.
After the historic Peace Accords of 1992, José returned to San Francisco where he completed his Masters in Economics at San Francisco State University and worked with the San Francisco Credit Union, the South Shore Bank of Chicago, the Grameen Bank of Bangladesh, and Salvadoran Savings and Loans cooperatives. Among other accomplishments, he pioneered a program for Salvadorans in the U.S. to send remittances to their families and communities.
In the mid-1990s, José became the executive director of the SHARE Foundation. Under José’s leadership, SHARE has cultivated a network of sister relationships with Salvadoran communities. SHARE also supports literacy for women, micro-lending, a youth development scholarship program, food security, agro-ecological practices that address climate change, and programs that build capacity for citizen participation, democracy, and human rights.
José is the co-founder of the Residency Now for Central American with Temporary Protected Status, which seeks permanent legal residence for Central Americans who currently have TPS. Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes named José Commissioner for Overseas Voting to promote voting in Salvadoran elections by Salvadorans living outside the country. In addition, José is the International Coordinator for the El Salvador Literacy Campaign.
Jose is Ambassador for Literacy
José has been married to Eileen Purcell for three decades and is the proud parent of Camilo, Rutilio, and Alejandro. He is also a passionate reader and walker, a former coach of co-ed children’s soccer teams, and a lover of nature. José lives in San Francisco and travels often to El Salvador.