60 years ago, the Capelinhos volcano emerged and terrorized the Azores, but it also opened up opportunities for Azorean emigration to the United States, largely due to pressure from the Portuguese community in the states of Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
According to Maria Helena Anacleto “At the request of the Portuguese-American constituents, Senators John Pastore of Rhode Island and John Kennedy of Massachusetts jointly promoted a Congressional Bill in the summer of 1958 which became the so-called Azorean Refugee Act , a decision that allowed the issuance of one thousand and five hundred visas outside the regular quota to Faial heads of households (including their dependents), to be used until June 30, 1960. An amendment in 1960 increased the number of visas to two thousand , to be used until June 1962. Due to a natural disaster, 4811 Portuguese went to the US, in addition to the regular quota of immigrants. ”
According to Onésimo Almeida, the “great engine of the whole initiative that resulted in the Azorean Refugee Act was due to Joseph Perry, a Portuguese-American Representative to the Rhode Island State Congress, who mobilized the community to exert political pressure on federal senators John Kennedy of Massachusetts, and John Pastore of Rhode Island. ”