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.

Sotomayor’s Way With Words

by Michelle Chen on January 9 2010, 11:52PM

The January 11 issue of the New Yorker features a long article on Justice Sonia Sotomayor, parsing her roots in a working-class Bronx neighborhood, her early activism in the Puerto Rican community as a student, and the political waltz leading…


One in Four Black, Latino Workers Shut Out of Withered Job Market

by Michelle Chen on January 8 2010, 11:51PM

The new labor statistics released today show more of the same: official unemployment was about level. Some economists insist that we’re still on track for a steady recovery; left-leaning analysts like the Economic Policy Institute say the hole is much…

Topics: Economy, Schools & Youth

EPA Moves to Shield Neighborhoods from Smog

by Michelle Chen on January 8 2010, 10:07PM

The EPA proposed stronger regulations on smog pollution this week, paving the way for stronger controls on the poisonous fumes that hover over poor and racially segregated communities. The agency is starting to undo the damage of Bush-era guidelines…

Topics: Environment, Global Affairs

Uganda’s Anti-LGBT Bill: Facing Hate and Hegemony

by Michelle Chen on January 7 2010, 7:19PM

The now-infamous anti-homosexuality bill in Uganda has kicked up a media storm halfway around the world. The bill, which could pave the way for the death penalty, life imprisonment or other severe penalties for homosexuality-related behavior—might otherwise be dismissed…

Topics: Global Affairs

African Literature for Dummies

by Michelle Chen on January 7 2010, 6:59AM

The publishing industry may be in disarray, but the market in liberal-guilt exorcism is booming. Now, you too can write your own acclaimed African novel. Just follow these simple steps, courtesy Binyavanga Wainaina.* * Hair accessories sold separately. (h/t Sociological…

Topics: Global Affairs, Video & Multimedia

Marshall Islanders: Health Care Reform Survivors?

by Michelle Chen on January 6 2010, 11:51PM

By now, anyone who’s been following the health care battle in Congress knows that the gulf between aspiration and reality has become a chasm, and even the marginally progressive elements, like a broad public health program, may be scrubbed…

Topics: Health, Immigration

Travel Restrictions Under Obama: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

by Michelle Chen on January 5 2010, 9:13AM

America’s borders tightened and loosened this week as the Obama administration revamped its travel restriction policies. The formal end to a longstanding travel ban on people with HIV/AIDS has enabled travelers to enter the country without being subjected to…

Topics: National Security

Divorced from Reality, Bushies Debate Racial Profiling

by Michelle Chen on January 4 2010, 6:54PM

Think Progress reports: In the wake of the underpants terror plot that caught everyone off guard, former Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff says profiling is “arguably dangerous” on Meet the Press:…when David Gregory asked former Bush CIA director Michael…

Topics: Criminal Justice, National Security, Politics

In Bungled Reform Battle, Building Blocks for Progressive Healthcare Workforce

by Michelle Chen on December 28 2009, 8:10AM

As Congress puts the finishing touches on its bruised and battered health care reform legislation, pointed criticism has emerged from the left alongside reactionary opposition from the right. For labor, it’s a mixed bag at best; the AFL-CIO is still…

Topics: Health

Holiday Vindication Ends Nutty Year for ACORN

by Michelle Chen on December 24 2009, 10:06AM

It’s been a trough year for ACORN, fraught with YouTube scandals and right-wing radio gotchas. But the organization—a powerful anti-poverty advocacy group and favorite whipping post of GOP conspiranoiacs—got a little holiday cheer recently with two reports that essentially…

Topics: Politics

Asylum Seekers Spared the Worst of the Immigration Crisis?

by Michelle Chen on December 18 2009, 12:09AM

The prospects for meaningful immigration reform look treacherously dim, but the White House did start dealing with one blight in the immigration system this week. Starting next year, in theory, people fleeing torture and persecution will be able to…

Topics: Immigration

Reading the Afro: A Hairy Issue for Publishers Weekly

by Michelle Chen on December 16 2009, 8:01AM

Publishers Weekly raised some angry eyebrows with its latest cover illustration. Apparently, for an issue devoted to African-American publishing, the designer thought readers would be amused by the image of a Black woman adorned with a surrealistic “crown” of…

Topics: Media

Shifting Climate, Moving People: Immigration and Climate Justice

by Michelle Chen on December 15 2009, 9:36AM

The impasse in Copenhagen underscores just how interconnected, and perhaps collectively doomed, we all are in the face of global climate change. And like the rapid currents of trade coursing around the globe, environmental destruction is reshaping the flow…

Topics: Environment, Global Affairs, Immigration

Cobell Lawsuit: An Overdue Reckoning, An Unpayable Debt

by Michelle Chen on December 9 2009, 6:34AM

It’s sadly fitting that one of the government’s longest-running traditions—the cheating of native peoples—has fueled one of the longest-running class-action lawsuits in the country’s history. But a new legal settlement gives hope to some indigenous communities for finally receiving…


In Health Debate, GOP Plays the Slavery Card—and Loses

by Michelle Chen on December 8 2009, 8:18AM

Conservatives on the Hill were shocked—shocked!—when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid compared conservatives’ obstructionism on health care reform to resistance, in an earlier era, to the abolition of that “peculiar institution.” “Outrageous!” cried Rush Limbaugh, following up with a…

Topics: Health, Politics

Classroom as Hostile Territory: Stopping School “Push Out”

by Michelle Chen on December 5 2009, 9:40AM

Schools are supposed to offer children in struggling communities a pathway to better prospects, but they’re increasingly becoming instruments of exclusion. A coalition civil rights and community groups has launched a national campaign against school “push out.” It’s a…

Topics: Criminal Justice, Schools & Youth

Indian Health and Abortion Rights: A Dose of Hope Laced with Poison Pills

by Michelle Chen on December 3 2009, 8:00AM

Though it has lurked on the sidelines in the national health care debate, Indian Health Services is one instructive example of a government-run health system that, for all its faults, serves as a fraying lifeline for impoverished communities devastated…

Topics: Health

Salvation Army Checks Its List Twice—for Immigration Status

by Michelle Chen on December 3 2009, 1:05AM

Note: This post has been UPDATED to reflect the Salvation Army’s new Santa screening policy: Want to know who’s naughty or nice this holiday season? According to a recent news report, the Salvation Army—that universal emblem of good will…

Topics: Immigration

Reevaluating Immigration Reform: What’s it Worth?

by Michelle Chen on December 2 2009, 6:58AM

The immigration debate these days looks more like a balance sheet than a political conversation. Reflecting the economic anxieties besieging politicians and voters, two competing views of immigrants emerge: as a vital contributor to the economy or a burden…

Topics: Immigration

“Good White Stock”: Child Refugees of the British Empire

by Michelle Chen on November 26 2009, 5:47AM

Forced migration, displacement, and racial social engineering are ugly modern phenomena that we typically associate with the denigration of oppressed racial and religious groups. But we recently got a glimpse of a colonization effort that in some ways inverted…

Topics: History, Immigration