Exclusive: Enrique Acevedo On His New Chapter At CBS And Changing The Rhetoric On Immigration
Enrique Acevedo opens up to People CHICA about his groundbreaking stories for the show 60 Minutes+ on CBS and how the struggles of immigrant children and families have touched his heart.
After leaving Univision in 2020, Enrique Acevedo started a fascinating new chapter at CBS. The renowned Mexican journalist, 43, talked to People CHICA about his stories for 60 Minutes+ and how they are changing the rhetoric on immigration.
What do you enjoy most about working with CBS and starting this new chapter in your career?
There's a collective sense of service and a devotion to quality that I haven't fully experienced before. Everyone is mindful of the legacy of the CBS News brand and my colleagues work hard every day to build on that history. I'm very excited to start a new chapter in my career at CBS, and to share that experience with people I respect and admire. I would also highlight a real commitment to diversity. CBS News is breaking a historic barrier by hiring a first-generation Mexican immigrant as part of its on-air team. In less than 20 years I went from reporting for a local newspaper in Monterrey, Mexico, to working for the same network built by some of the most celebrated names in broadcast journalism around the world.
Tell us about your story on the border town of Piedras Negras… why is it important to tell stories like this? What affected you most on a personal level?
During our reporting trip to the border we came across an unexpected refuge for migrants making their way toward the U.S. The Santa Rosa Hotel, which used to cater to Mexico's elite, has become a safe haven for people fleeing from countries like Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. We found the hotel was fully-booked —25 rooms with 25 different versions of the immigrants creed. For us it was important to find a story that was both unique and compelling and that could help approach the situation at the border from a human perspective. Keeping a distance from the stories and the subjects we cover is considered sacred in journalism, but I honestly think that even the most basic sense of empathy and compassion are needed to tell a good story. As an immigrant and a father, but also as a human being, I was deeply touched and inspired by the stories of families leaving everything behind in search of hope.
What inspires you most about telling these stories of immigrants struggling and looking for a better life?
The sense that their story is in many ways our story, too. Immigration is part of our DNA. I hope future generations can look back at these stories with the same pride and joy that we look back at the stories of those who came here before us.
Do you feel a lack of sensitivity and empathy towards immigrants? How can we change that?
Absolutely. The dominant narrative has criminalized and dehumanized migrants and it pains me to see how we often ignore or minimize their contributions and their value. For all the pain and the loss brought by the pandemic, I'm hopeful that we can now acknowledge that immigrants are indispensable to our well-being. We've recognized them as essential and now we should work to honor that title.
How is the pandemic affecting immigrant communities along the border?
I think once-dynamic communities on both sides have suffered the effects of border militarization. We need to remember at least 15 million people live along the border region where these two cultures learn, borrow and feed off each other. That has become more difficult over the years thanks in part to all the rhetoric feeding border hysteria. The pandemic has complicated things mainly due to the fact that the border remains closed to non-essential travel.
As a father, how are you affected by these stories of immigrant children coming to the U.S. border unaccompanied?
It's the hardest thing I've ever done as a journalist. I remember covering the Sandy Hook shootings and questioning everything I knew until then about journalism. I was single and not a father at the time but covering that story had a profound impact on me. In reporting on the stories of immigrant children, I do my best to treat their stories with the dignity and the humanity they deserve and I hope that my work helps these families in some way. It might be selfish of me to say this, but I also hope that it helps me become a better father, too.
How do you find balance between work and family life? How do your kids motivate you as a journalist?
Among other things, I've learned how to do a live radio hit while changing a diaper and keeping my focus during a zoom interview when my two sons are in the same room. But in all seriousness, I made the most difficult decision so far in my professional life last year after leaving Univision to focus entirely on 60 Minutes+. I had a dream job as an anchor at the leading Spanish-language broadcast network, but I still felt like I was not doing enough to grow as a journalist. Now, I get to grow with a new format. I'm not there yet, but at least now I feel I'm on the right path and as a family we are stronger because of everything we went through to get here. I want my kids to feel proud about the work, not about the fact that I'm on TV.
Do you feel the Biden administration is taking the right steps in addressing this immigration crisis? What can be done better?
Time will tell. We've seen this happen before in 2014, 2016 and 2019. Some of President Biden's critics say his policies and the messaging from the White House is actually contributing to what many call a humanitarian emergency at the border. After spending time reporting on what conditions are like on the Mexican side of the border, I struggle to understand how sending families back to Mexico is going to help fix this situation. They have to build the plane while flying and that's not easy to do. Truth is, everyone needs to do their part – President Biden, Congress, local governments and Mexico and Central America. Otherwise, we'll be back at the border soon reporting on the same story yet once again.