VP debate moderator Elaine Quijano is one of the US’s 36 million second-generation immigrants

A different perspective.
A different perspective.
Image: Reuters/Joe Raedle/Pool
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

On the evening of Oct. 4 those longing for more diversity in US politics might feel a sense of disappointment when watching the nation’s first and only vice presidential debate, between Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican Mike Pence. Both the candidates—along with every elected vice president in US history—are white males.

Asking them the questions, however, will be a journalist more representative of America’s changing demographics. CBS News’ Elaine Quijano, a Filipino-American, will be the first Asian-American to moderate a general election debate. And at age 42, she’ll be one of the youngest moderators, as well.

Quijano was born and grew up in the Chicago area, earning a journalism degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her mother immigrated to the US from the Philippines. In 2009 Quijano spoke to graduates (video) at the university’s College of Media about her mother’s tough childhood and determination to get a college degree:

My mom came from humble beginnings. In the Philippines, as a little girl during World War II, she lost her dad in a US airstrike against the Japanese, who had occupied a nearby village. He just didn’t come home one day. My mom was five, and as the daughter of a seamstress, and one of four young children, she wasn’t surrounded with opportunities for success. But she went to school, she grew up, and eventually graduated from college—no small feat when you stop and start your studies multiple times in order to support your family, and when your own mother asks, not with malice but with genuine confusion, “Why are you going to school? You’re just going to be a seamstress like me.” My mother was 28 years old when she finally earned her bachelor’s degree in accounting. That education allowed her to immigrate here to the United States, ultimately paving the way for my sister—an MIT graduate—and me.

According to a 2013 report from the Pew Research Center, there are some 20 million adult second-generation Americans—US-born children of immigrants—and another 16 million children.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, of course, has a strong anti-immigrant stance. He’s proposed building a wall along the US-Mexico border, suggested that a second-generation immigrant judge was “biased” against him because of his heritage, and has questioned whether second-generation Muslims “assimilate.” His running mate Pence, as governor of Indiana, has tried to keep Syrian refugees out of his state, even as he accepted federal money for refugee resettlement—yesterday a federal appeals court said Pence’s actions in that regard were illegal.

Quijano has not tweeted since Sept. 2, when CBS News announced she’d moderate the debate, apparently in a bid to protect her impartiality.

Slated to be the debate’s sole moderator, Quijano has impressive credentials. After university she quickly graduated from local reporting gigs to CNN Newsource, covering the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. CNN promoted her to White House correspondent in 2006. She joined CBS News in 2010, and is now the anchor of CBSN, the brand’s 24-hour digital streaming network.