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.

Filipino Teachers Recruited to ‘Virtual Servitude’ in Louisiana

by Michelle Chen on October 7 2009, 10:22AM

This post originally appeared on In These Times. They came on a mission to teach American children, but ended up getting a tough lesson on America’s volatile labor system. A group of Filipino teachers recruited for Louisiana schools was coerced…

Topics: Schools & Youth

White House Raises Hopes for Kinder, Gentler Immigrant Detention

by Michelle Chen on October 6 2009, 9:45PM

All this could be yours. Federal detention facility, Batavia, New York. Soon, undocumented immigrants may be eligible to enjoy an expense-paid hotel stay just before being jetted off to their country of origin, never to see their families again,…

Topics: Immigration

Latino Lawmakers Urge Obama to Take the High Road on Immigration

by Michelle Chen on October 2 2009, 1:29AM

A few weeks ago, several hundred advocacy organizations demanded that the Obama administration overturn the aggressive enforcement policies that have alienated immigrant communities over the past eight years. The mounting opposition to one of the most controversial Bush Era…

Topics: Immigration

Voting Rights in Short Supply in Indian Country

by Michelle Chen on October 1 2009, 9:36PM

You might think the country’s oldest inhabitants would be treated as full citizens by now. But in the real world of American politics, Indian Country isn’t a swing state, and native people’s voting rights, like their communities, are relegated…


Felon Enfranchisement: Getting Out the Vote Inside

by Michelle Chen on September 29 2009, 10:52PM

Schools, town halls, and even legislative chambers are feeling increasingly uneasy these days, besieged by an onslaught of racist hostility. Yet civil rights activists are working to open up new space for democracy in one of the least friendly…

Topics: Criminal Justice

Does Obama-Paterson Tension Mark the Limits of “Race Loyalty”?

by Michelle Chen on September 25 2009, 11:10PM

As if there weren’t enough to ridicule already about New York politics, Governor David Paterson and President Obama are reportedly caught in a standoff over Paterson’s potential candidacy in the 2010 governor’s race. Since Paterson was catapulted into the…

Topics: Politics

In Health Insurance Debate, Who’s Covered?

by Michelle Chen on September 25 2009, 5:39PM

The media has circulating a haunting figure in recent days:45,000 deaths due to lack of health insurance—a grim marker of the depth of the country’s health care crisis. The statistic, from a new study by Harvard School of Medicine…

Topics: Health, Immigration, Politics

Lou Dobbs Leads Human Rights Crusade Against Roberto Lovato

by Michelle Chen on September 22 2009, 10:14PM

Media Matters has brought us this gem from the September 22 broadcast of The Lou DobbsShow, in which he takes denounces Roberto Lovato, founder of and Colorlines contributor, as “a typical left-wing activist coward propagandist.” Have a listen: Dobbs…

Topics: Immigration, Media

Finding “Criminal Aliens”: Turning Haystacks into Needles

by Michelle Chen on September 18 2009, 8:59PM

The Obama administration has promised to streamline immigration enforcement by targeting actual criminal offenders, as opposed to just civil immigration law violations (think more smuggled oozies, fewer expired tourist visas). But in Iowa, according to an investigation by the…

Topics: Immigration

Immigration Lawyer of the Year: Joe Wilson

by Michelle Chen on September 15 2009, 9:47PM

Tuesday was Joe “You Lie” Wilson’s day of reckoning. Following his temper tantrum during Obama’s address on healthcare reform, the House, by a 240-179 vote, issued this stinging rebuke: Whereas on September 9, 2009, during the joint session of…

Topics: Health, Immigration, Politics

Massachusetts Reforms Healthcare, Preserves Inequity

by Michelle Chen on September 11 2009, 10:29PM

The latest uptick in the uninsured population, now exceeding 46 million, is bad but anticipated news. The racial and socioeconomic disparities within the health care gap are more disturbing—especially in the state that could serve as a model for…

Topics: Health

Court Supports Cleaner Air for Tribal Lands in Michigan

by Michelle Chen on September 11 2009, 8:38PM

Cross-posted from Air America: After generations of seeing their habitat ravaged by industrial pollution, one Native American community in the Midwest is reclaiming sovereignty over the air they breathe. A federal appeals court has ruled that a Wisconsin-based Native…

Topics: Environment

“Their Only Weapons Were Their Cameras”: Press Freedom in Puerto Rico

by Michelle Chen on September 11 2009, 5:53PM

Civil liberties advocates are taking their fight to defend free speech all the way to America’s most famous colonial outpost. The ACLU is appealing a federal court’s decision in support of the FBI in a free speech case in…


Say It Ain’t So, Joe: Shouting Down Immigrants and Healthcare Reform

by Michelle Chen on September 9 2009, 8:51PM

Just who was that shrill voice heckling the President from the gallery at tonight’s healthcare reform speech? None other than Joe Wilson, Republican of South Carolina and vaunted protector of American borders and American values. Wilson’s latest contribution to…

Topics: Health, Immigration

Tim Wise on Racism 2.0

by Michelle Chen on September 9 2009, 12:00PM

The author and activist chats about his new book, white denial and gay rights.

Topics: Arts & Culture

Immigrant Workers at Home: Hired Hands Hold Family Bonds

by Michelle Chen on September 4 2009, 9:24PM

In American households, the divide between the home and the workplace is always evolving, and immigrants are shaping that evolution more than we know. Immigrant women workers today form a pillar of the middle-class family. As nannies, housekeepers and…

Topics: Economy, Immigration

In Our Backyard: Environmental Racism in Dickson

by Michelle Chen on September 4 2009, 4:18PM

You may not have heard of Dickson, Tennessee, but this weekend, the town is center stage in the movement for environmental justice. Civil rights leaders gathered there for a national summit on environmental racism to highlight environmental health issues…

Topics: Environment

Protesters Rally for Urban Peace in Newark

by Michelle Chen on September 3 2009, 9:09PM

Something strange is happening on the streets of Newark, New Jersey. Communities that have been battered by violent crime, economic hardship, and racial segregation are standing up in defiance—and in peace. Frustrated by a rash of violence in their…


Refining the Poverty Line

by Michelle Chen on September 1 2009, 7:51PM

One reason the government has spent nearly half a century fighting, and losing, the war on poverty, is that it doesn’t know where to draw the battle line. The Center for American Progress recently analyzed the inadequacy of the…

Topics: Economy

Good Gangs

by Michelle Chen on August 31 2009, 8:48PM

Over the past few years, the phenomenon of youth gangs has spawned its own field of criminology—part social science, part political spectacle. Police have been declaring war on gangs for decades, officials have deployed social workers, teachers and “gang…

Topics: Criminal Justice