San Quentin prison blues

by Michelle Chen on June 9 2009, 9:48PM

California’s most infamous prison may be shuttering its doors at last, and some may feel surprisingly troubled about its closure. The cash-strapped state is moving toward closing San Quentin—which houses more than 5,000 inmates, many of them on death…

Topics: Politics

Local (in)hospitality

by Michelle Chen on June 8 2009, 9:00PM

Official attitudes toward immigrants across America are remarkably diverse, ranging from public embrace to stiff exclusion. If you happened to pass through Tennessee last week, you might have heard Republican lawmaker Joe Carr vigorously slamming the door on undocumented…

Topics: Immigration, Politics

Race and the Race: Tim Pawlente Race: Tim Pawlenty’s Republiy’s Republican Strategy

by Guest Columnist on June 8 2009, 1:02PM

by Anusuya Sivaram As soon as Tim Pawlenty announced that he wouldn’t seek reelection in 2010, most people found it safe to assume that he’d run for President in 2012. Given the plethora of Republican hopefuls, and their diverse visions…

Topics: Politics

UAFA Would Keep Shirley Tan with her Partner and Kids

by Gina Acebo on June 5 2009, 9:37AM

This is Shirley Tan, testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing for the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA). UAFA would allow U.S. citizens and permanent residents to sponsor their same-sex partners for family-based immigration. Tan fled to the U.S….

Topics: Immigration, Politics, Video & Multimedia

Freedom of association

by Michelle Chen on May 28 2009, 10:03PM

The fight over the Employee Free Choice Act is getting uglier by the day. While the business interests campaign hard to kill the legislation, the labor movement is trying to beef up its offense by broadening it. The bill…

Topics: Politics

Andrea Shorter on the Supreme Irony of Today’s Prop 8 Ruling

by Julianne Hing on May 26 2009, 5:05PM

What a newsday to start off the week. It reminds me of another big day last year that was filled with both joyous and crushing news. You know, November 5, 2008, the morning after Barack Obama won the election and…

Topics: Politics

The gang aptitude test

by Michelle Chen on May 25 2009, 4:50PM

Pop quiz: Do any of the following describe you? I try to be nice to other people because I care about their feelings. I get very angry and “lose my temper” (yell or get mad). I do as I…

Topics: Criminal Justice, Politics

Goodbye, Abstinence-Only [VIDEO]

by Terry Keleher on May 9 2009, 10:38AM

Visit for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy President Obama has just cut all federal funding for failed abstinence-only-until-marriage programs in his proposed 2010 budget. The $100 million program from the George W. Bush era is…

Topics: Politics

Crack, powder and kicking butt in drug policy

by Michelle Chen on April 29 2009, 5:31PM

After years of frustration under Reagan-era drug laws, a Senate subcommittee hearing today parsed the fine line between crack and powder. The notorious 100-to-1 gap between sentencing policies for powder and crack cocaine is a linchpin of the mandatory-sentencing…

Topics: Criminal Justice, Politics

The law of unintended consequences

by Michelle Chen on April 27 2009, 5:35PM

Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano indicated last week that she is open to reforming the Real ID Act—the controversial 2005 legislation that purported to standardize driver’s licenses and block access for undocumented immigrants and people deemed security threats. The…

Topics: Immigration, Politics

Numbers game

by Michelle Chen on April 3 2009, 6:01PM

Counting people is harder than it looks. The 2010 census is morphing from a sociological project into a political one: conservatives are crowing about the dangers of tallying “illegals,” and activists are seeking policy changes to guard against undercounting….

Topics: Politics

Sticky fusion

by Michelle Chen on April 1 2009, 2:39PM

In a House Subcommittee hearing today, civil liberties advocates tried to shed some public light on one of the darkest corners of law enforcement. The hearing focused on so-called “fusion centers” funded by Homeland Security and scattered across the…

Topics: Politics

Double-vision on Mexico’s “drug war”

by Michelle Chen on March 11 2009, 4:21PM

On the U.S.-Mexico border, drug-related violence rivals immigration as a media fixation, projecting images of a so-called “failed state” and a “wave” of killings. The New York Times cites a National Drug Intelligence Center report calling Mexican cartels “the…

Topics: Global Affairs, Immigration, Politics

New York’s uphill climb to drop the rock

by Michelle Chen on March 6 2009, 3:55PM

All eyes are on New York as it moves toward reforming the Rockefeller Drug Laws. The mandatory-sentencing statutes have reshaped the prison population since the 1970s by drawing in thousands of people of color and low-level and nonviolent offenders….

Topics: Criminal Justice, Politics

Framing Bills With Racial Equity in Mind

by Jorge Rivas on March 6 2009, 1:57PM

Photo: Newsok, Video below. The Organizing Apprenticeship Project (OAP) in Minnesota has been working on including racial equity in legislation for years. When a bill titled “Driver’s license and identification card required to show full head and face” was…

Topics: Politics

Dropping the rock

by Michelle Chen on February 5 2009, 11:30AM

This week, New York took a decisive step toward reforming the Rockefeller Drug Laws—the notorious mandatory-minimum sentencing rules that have driven the mass incarceration of people of color over the past generation. Despite some marginal reforms in recent years, the…

Topics: Politics

It’s Time to Rethink Our Welfare Policy

by on February 4 2009, 1:31PM

Earlier this week the New York Times reported that even as many states have skyrocketing unemployment, their welfare rolls are shrinking. As a researcher for a racial justice think tank, I’ve been traveling the country collecting accounts of how this…

Topics: Politics

Patterson May Appoint Anti-Immigrant Senator

by Jonathan Adams on January 23 2009, 10:32AM

Now that Caroline Kennedy has dropped out of the running to replace Hillary Clinton in the Senate, reports speculate Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand from upstate New York is going to be announced tomorrow as the new Senator. Gillibrand has a…

Topics: Politics

Targeted neighborhoods, pt. 2: NYPD stop and frisk

by Michelle Chen on January 16 2009, 5:23PM

A new, disturbingly timely report by the Center for Constitutional Rights documents glaring racial disparities in the stops and searches carried out by New York City police. The analysis is hardly surprising, but the data does provide statistical muscle to…

Topics: Criminal Justice, Politics

Obama Considers Another Centrist Dem for Interior Secretary

by Guest Columnist on December 15 2008, 10:20AM

Obama Considering Appointment of Centrist Dem & Alberto Gonzalez Supporter as Interior Secretary By Roberto Lovato This article in the Denver Post (DP) indicates that President-elect Obama is preparing to announce the appointment of Colorado Senator Ken Salazar as…

Topics: Politics