Michelle Chen

Michelle Chen
Columnist, Global Justice
New York, NY

Michelle Chen is Colorlines' Global Justice columnist. She is a regular contributor on labor issues at In These Times, as well as a member of the magazine's Board of Editors. Michelle's reporting has appeared in Ms. Magazine, AirAmerica, Alternet, Newsday, the Progressive Media Project, and her old zine, cain. Prior to joining Colorlines, she wrote for the independent news collective The NewStandard. A native New Yorker, she has also conducted ethnographic research as a Fulbright fellow in Shanghai and checked coats at a West Village jazz club. She is currently pursuing doctoral studies at the City University of New York and co-producing the community radio program Asia Pacific Forum on Pacifica's WBAI.

Follow Michelle at @meeshellchen.

Death by Birth: Race and Maternal Mortality

by Michelle Chen on March 16 2010, 9:47PM

On December 14 2004, Tameka McFarquhar became a mother. On Christmas morning, the Jamaican-born 22-year-old was found dead in her apartment after bleeding to death. A later investigation found that part of the placenta had been lodged inside her body—a…

Topics: Health

Rewriting History in Texas

by Michelle Chen on March 13 2010, 8:38PM

Rewriting history sounds like a daunting task, but an elite group of educational “experts” in Texas makes it look easy. In the Lone Star State, all you need to dictate education policy is an abiding faith in dead white men,…

Topics: History, Immigration, Politics, Schools & Youth

A Fat Tax on Thin Wallets: Soda Politics Fizzle in NY

by Michelle Chen on March 11 2010, 9:14AM

Can the government cure an epidemic by passing a bill? Sounds too good to be true, but like many health claims, New York’s so-called “fat tax” proposal comes with a big disclaimer: the idea of reducing obesity by imposing a…

Topics: Health

The Redeemed Immigrant: NY Gov. Makes Exception to Corrupt Rules

by Michelle Chen on March 8 2010, 6:25AM

After the mistakes he made as a kid nearly got him kicked out of the country, Qing Hong Wu has gotten a precious second chance. Embattled New York Governor David Paterson took a brief respite from a maelstrom of political…

Topics: Criminal Justice, Immigration

No Place Like Home: The U.N. on America’s Housing System

by Michelle Chen on March 5 2010, 10:48PM

Housing is a human right. That’s not a phrase you hear often in our political discourse, even though the foreclosure crisis and recession have made shelter an increasingly precarious resource for millions across the country. On the most basic level,…


The Stimulus and Disadvantaged Communities: Trickling Down or Slipping Away?

by Michelle Chen on February 24 2010, 10:02PM

One year on, how far does the stimulus money stretch? New data on the impact of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act spending in communities of color show that by and large, the money has trickled into well-worn grooves of privilege…

Topics: Economy, Politics

Immigrants’ Invisible Presence in Health Care Debate

by Michelle Chen on February 20 2010, 12:12AM

You might be sick of hearing about health care by now, The politics of medicine grow messier by the day, dripping with empty jargon and industry lobbyists determined to eviscerate any substantive effort toward reform. Now imagine if you’ve…

Topics: Health, Immigration, Politics

Lawsuit Sheds Light on Guestworkers in Hostile Terrain

by Michelle Chen on February 17 2010, 10:24PM

“We felt like we were imprisoned, held captive. What else did he need, a whip?”—Vincente Vera Martínez, migrant forestry worker, from the Sacramento Bee series, “The Pineros” In the popular imagination, America’s forests serve as a sanctuary of nature, sheltered…

Topics: Immigration

Unstoppable Oppression: NYC Police Stops Point to Institutional Racism

by Michelle Chen on February 17 2010, 9:23PM

You may not think of New York City police as a particularly touchy-feely bunch (particularly in light of the latest twist in the case of police-shooting victim Sean Bell). But New Yorkers could tell you some stories about the…

Topics: Criminal Justice

Immigrants Fill Courtrooms Amid Vacuum of Justice

by Michelle Chen on February 16 2010, 9:38AM

The American Bar Association’s 510-page report on the need to overhaul immigration courts was not just an academic exercise. Several new analyses examine the crisis engulfing the courts, as well as the entire law enforcement racket that lawmakers have constructed…

Topics: Immigration

Race and LGBT Health: Coloring in the Gaps

by Michelle Chen on February 13 2010, 8:09AM

No matter how good your health benefits are, they don’t insure you against discrimination, especially when your racial identity and sexual orientation both stack the odds against your well being. Jeff Krehely of the Center for American Progress writes…

Topics: Health

Farm Guestworker Standards Lifted From Worse to Bad

by Michelle Chen on February 13 2010, 6:19AM

Americans are obsessed with what they eat and where it comes from, and far less concerned about who does the work of bringing it to their table. Farm workers are some of the least visible facets of the food system,…

Topics: Immigration

Moving On Up and Hitting a Wall: Social Mobility in the U.S. and Europe

by Michelle Chen on February 10 2010, 8:28PM

America: land of opportunity… if you’re lucky enough to be born into one. The crumbling of the American Dream is in plain view across the country, especially in the urban centers and desolate ghost towns that have long been…

Topics: Economy, Global Affairs, Schools & Youth

Sex Ed Wars Continue in Communities of Color

by Michelle Chen on February 10 2010, 5:02PM

For the past several days, reproductive health advocates have been wrestling with something of a sexual counterrevolution. A new study appears to support abstinence-based sexuality education, which, on the surface, may undercut the case for comprehensive sex-ed, which focuses on…

Topics: Schools & Youth

Faultlines in Haiti: Who is Listening on the Ground?

by Michelle Chen on February 8 2010, 8:10PM

Haiti’s devastation is metastasized into a roiling homelessness crisis, and aid groups warn of another potential mass displacement as the government considers shifting people to supposedly more organized encampments outside the capital. What do Haitian survivors think of the…

Topics: Global Affairs

Public Housing Residents: Trespassing in Their Own Home

by Michelle Chen on February 6 2010, 3:54PM

Last year, the arrest of Henry Louis Gates, Jr. after he tried to enter his own home jolted some Americans out of the post-election post-racial euphoria. The idea that a prominent elderly Harvard scholar could be nabbed for “disorderly…


Wages and Immigrants: ‘Cheap Labor’ Might Give You a Raise

by Michelle Chen on February 5 2010, 10:30PM

If you were one of the legions of pissed-off jobless folks out in force at the National Tea Party Convention this week, demonstrating against the “illegals” taking “your job,” you’re entitled to your opinion. But you should know that…

Topics: Immigration, Politics

Unions Waning, but Holding Edge on the Color Line

by Michelle Chen on February 4 2010, 12:53AM

The portion of the U.S. workforce that belongs to a union has fallen to historical lows. The latest data from the feds show that unionization dwindled to 12.3 percent in 2009 (about 15.3 million), basically the same as the…

Topics: Economy

ICE’s Kids: Collateral Consequences of Immigration Raids

by Michelle Chen on February 3 2010, 9:38PM

The immigration system has never been known for being family friendly (unless you think parent-child detention helps maintain “family unity”). Yet as immigration enforcement has spilled into local police patrols, anti-drug law enforcement, national security, and the prison industrial…

Topics: Immigration

Many Bullets, No Answers in Death of Detroit Muslim Leader

by Michelle Chen on February 2 2010, 9:05PM

Just a few weeks after the end of Ramadan last year, a gunfight broke out at a warehouse in Dearborn Michigan. After all the shots were fired, Imam Luqman Ameein Abdullah was dead. His body, riddled with bullet holes,…

Topics: Criminal Justice, National Security