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.

Broken bootstraps: Black and Latino Youth in Transition

by Michelle Chen on August 28 2009, 9:56PM

They started with nothing, worked tirelessly, saved every penny, pushed their kids hard in school and sent them straight into middle-class suburban bliss. American Dream realized. The end. New research from the Urban Institute paints a more complex picture…

Topics: Economy

Finally, Hundreds of Groups Challenge Obama on Immigrant Crackdowns

by Michelle Chen on August 28 2009, 7:59PM

About 520 immigrant, racial justice and civil rights advocacy groups are have rallied to demand that the Obama administration scrap the 287(g) program. A disturbing hallmark of the Bush administration’s law-and-order approach, the program enables federal authorities and local…

Topics: Immigration

Defending the Gulf Coast from the Next Katrina

by Michelle Chen on August 27 2009, 9:22PM

Pristine wetlands don’t often come to mind when we think about environmental racism. But the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina is a reminder that environmental justice and conservation are two sides of the same struggle. As the post-hurricane recovery effort…


The War Over Drugs in Central America and Washington

by Michelle Chen on August 27 2009, 5:58PM

One of the first signs that Obama’s healthcare reform efforts were headed southward was the backdoor deal the White House struck with the pharmaceutical industry earlier this summer. Big Pharma’s promise to help “save” Americans $80 billion under the…

Topics: Global Affairs, Health

Spinning a Sweatshop Story from Chinatown to City Hall

by Michelle Chen on August 26 2009, 9:42PM

While at least one New York politician is wriggling away from accusations of playing the race card, New York City Councilmember John Liu—a rare Asian American elected official and candidate for city controller—is scrambling to clear the record on…

Topics: Immigration

Keeping Kids Covered Under Healthcare Reform

by Michelle Chen on August 25 2009, 10:57PM

Healthcare reform is supposed to expand coverage for all, but some advocates fear poor children will be left out. The federal Children’s Health Insurance Program, which Congress recently reauthorized, provides critical health coverage to poor children and pregnant women,…

Topics: Health

The Language of Good Health: Pharmacy Access in New York

by Michelle Chen on August 25 2009, 9:37PM

Patients are expected to follow the doctor’s orders, but for many immigrants who can’t read or speak English easily, taking your daily medicine means finding a friend or family member to translate a prescription, or just making an educated…

Topics: Health, Immigration

Moving a Mountain in Alabama: Sacred Indian Site Under Siege

by Michelle Chen on August 24 2009, 10:30PM

After surviving centuries of colonial invasion, a community of American Indians in Alabama weren’t about to back down when they discovered the latest trespasser on their territory: Sam’s Club. An ancient stone mound in what is today known as…


Kids in Custody, and in Crisis: Detention in New York

by Michelle Chen on August 24 2009, 7:39PM

Hundreds upon hundreds of New York’s poorest Black and Latino youth have had to live in a place where they face violence and abuse at every turn, where kids wrestle with addiction and mental trauma, with their parents nowhere…


Teaching the Past and Advancing a Movement in Mississippi

by Michelle Chen on August 21 2009, 10:29PM

When discussing the history of race relations in America, any mention of Mississippi usually deserves to be followed by a “god damn.” Nowadays, though, young Mississippians are moving toward an enlightened concept of past civil rights struggles—and making some…

Topics: Schools & Youth

In Healthcare Debate, Dispelling the Myth of Real Change

by Michelle Chen on August 21 2009, 6:22PM

Against a tide of lies and vitriol, President Obama is working hard to dispel popular myths about healthcare reform. Chief among them is the crackpot idea that universal health care actually means health care for everyone. In a chat…

Topics: Health, Politics

New Jersey City Faces a Lockdown… for Its Own Good

by Michelle Chen on August 20 2009, 11:00PM

The Mayor of Paterson, New Jersey wants to keep local residents safe at home. Whether they like it or not. The city is weighing a proposal to impose a blanket curfew in response to recent incidents of violent crime….


The U.S., Canada and Tar Sands: Pollution Without Borders

by Michelle Chen on August 20 2009, 6:05PM

The government is busy stemming the flow of immigration from Mexico, but it’s welcoming a different kind of flood from the north. The State Department just approved a project to pipe some of the world’s dirtiest oil from Canada…

Topics: Environment

Special Education: Equity and Access in Charter Schools

by Michelle Chen on August 19 2009, 5:00PM

Charter schools are often marketed as incubators of educational innovation, and they form a key feature of the Obama administration’s school reform agenda. But in some urban communities, they may be fueling de facto school segregation. In Boston, the…

Topics: Schools & Youth

Transit Stagnates Along with the Economy

by Michelle Chen on August 18 2009, 10:06PM

As the recession leaves millions of households barely getting by, crumbling local transit systems have made it a challenge just to get out the door. Though the demand for public transit has soared amid the economic crisis, according to…

Topics: Economy, Environment

Albany’s Latest Boondoggle: Racial Justice

by Michelle Chen on August 18 2009, 5:01PM

The New York Post—that paragon of journalistic excellence—ran an editorial today blasting the latest piece of pork to come out of Albany. Under the headline “Your Tax Dollars At Waste,” the paper took aim at a State Senate earmark…

Topics: Criminal Justice, Politics

Banking on Poor Neighborhoods

by Michelle Chen on August 17 2009, 10:18PM

Given the banking industry’s growing reputation for bilking, cheating, and otherwise betraying naive borrowers, it’s not surprising that a new bank account can be a tough sell in poor urban communities of color. So how should banks get the…

Topics: Economy

Cheating Immigrants: the Real “Fraud” in the Immigration System

by Michelle Chen on August 17 2009, 4:55PM

If you need more reasons to distrust lawyers, ask an immigrant. They might be able to tell you a thing or two about the vast cottage industry that has cropped up around immigration law. A case reported in the…

Topics: Immigration

No Complaints Here: Equal Employment Opportunity in Washington

by Michelle Chen on August 14 2009, 10:10PM

Being mistreated in your workplace because of your background is a pretty bad deal, but it’s worse when your boss is the government. Deep within the recesses of Washington’s bureaucracy, there is a commission devoted to ensuring that this…


“Tragic, but not Criminal”: No Charges in NYPD Friendly Fire Death

by Michelle Chen on August 14 2009, 8:02PM

It’s been a good couple of weeks for New York’s Finest. A Manhattan grand jury has cleared Officer Andrew P. Dunton of all criminal charges in the killing of his colleague, Omar Edwards. The announcement of the decision on…