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.

Cover the Uninsured, but Not the Undocumented?

by Michelle Chen on July 30 2009, 9:16PM

The recent jury decision supporting the deportation of Luis Jimenez illustrates a chilling dilemma in the healthcare system. Jimenez, a former laborer left paralyzed and brain damaged by a car accident, was discharged to his native Guatemala because his…

Topics: Health, Immigration

2010 Census: Making Immigrants Count

by Michelle Chen on July 29 2009, 10:04PM

The immigration debate is replete with dubious warnings about the numbers of immigrants thronging to our borders, crowding our prisons, squeezing citizens out of job opportunities, and taxing our public services. But for all the demographic myths they propagate,…


In Communities of Color, Pollution Looms over Growing Minds

by Michelle Chen on July 29 2009, 4:43PM

In some New York City neighborhoods, kids may be set back in school long before they ever enter a classroom, thanks to dirty air. A new study by the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health draws a connection between…

Topics: Environment

Immigration Detention: Enforcing a Double Standard

by Michelle Chen on July 28 2009, 9:03PM

Tens of thousands of people are living in a legal no-man’s land within our borders, and the government wants to keep it that way. According to a massive report just released by the ACLU of Southern California, the National…

Topics: Immigration

Owning up to a broken dream

by Michelle Chen on July 28 2009, 4:07PM

Remember the Ownership Society? Yeah. That worked. Politicians have for the past generation peddled homeownership as a panacea to various social ills, but the foreclosure epidemic underscores what skeptical researchers have been pointing to all along: that efforts to…


Dogs of war

by Michelle Chen on July 27 2009, 8:32PM

Relations between the U.S. military and the Iraqi people have been strained in the past, but the Pentagon recently scored an A-plus for cultural competency in its efforts to train Iraq’s young security force. In today’s perfunctory color piece…


Throwing away the key

by Michelle Chen on July 27 2009, 5:11PM

The “corrections” system has over the years drastically expanded the use of sentences that lock people away forever without chance of release. As with other facets of criminal justice, most of those lives deemed beyond repair belong to people…


Giving them back their vote

by Michelle Chen on July 25 2009, 6:15AM

The 2008 election brought remarkable voter turnout from communities of color. But while Obama’s candidacy may have spurred historically underrepresented groups to go to the polls in record numbers, the political clout of many of those communities was undercut…


A scripted dialogue

by Michelle Chen on July 24 2009, 10:29PM

President Obama’s walkback on his comment about Cambridge police and Henry Gates will read differently to different people—an admission of impropriety, a calculated political maneuver, or, to those who hoped the incident would spark a major public discussion, as…


“Bad girls”

by Michelle Chen on July 24 2009, 6:27PM

Zoot suit riots, West Side Story, Bloods and Crips—America has long had a fascination with the deviant teen. While the dramatic narrative has always been threaded with race and class struggle, the gender dimension of youth “delinquency” is often…

Topics: Criminal Justice

Are culture wars killing reproductive health?

by Michelle Chen on July 23 2009, 8:58PM

New federal data about adolescent sexual behavior stratify sharply, and not surprisingly, along racial lines. Perhaps more disturbing is that after years of progress, the reproductive health and justice movements appear to be losing ground. The Centers for Disease…

Topics: Health

Breaking and entering

by Michelle Chen on July 23 2009, 12:18PM

The phenomenon of “llegal entry” has been in the news a lot lately—and when it comes to immigration, the problem seems to cut both ways. An investigation by researchers at Cardozo Law School found that in several Long Island…

Topics: Immigration

The science and myth of race

by Michelle Chen on July 22 2009, 5:28PM

Recent advancements in medicine and technology might give the impression that we’re moving toward a belief in shared human potential and societal progress. But when it comes to race, the fruits of modernity could easily be used to promote…

Topics: Health

Unprotected status

by Michelle Chen on July 21 2009, 10:04PM

Somali refugees in America can breathe a sigh of relief for now, but many Haitians are still holding their breath under the threat of deportation. According to news reports, the Obama administration has extended temporary protected status (TPS) for…

Topics: Immigration

Hate v. Death in the Matthew Shepard Act

by Michelle Chen on July 21 2009, 4:56PM

Senator Jeff Sessions took a strong stance on hate crime today—in a way that only an unabashedly bigoted lawmaker could. He has tacked an amendment onto the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act (passed by the Senate last week),…

Topics: Criminal Justice

Breakdown in New Orleans

by Michelle Chen on July 20 2009, 5:05PM

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, there’s been sporadic media coverage of traumatized survivors struggling with mental health problems. Years later, the children who experienced the disaster are still drowning in the emotional fallout. In a mostly Black community,…

Topics: Health

Playing the green race card

by Michelle Chen on July 17 2009, 7:04PM

National Black Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Harry Alford gave a lesson in how not to do identity politics on Thursday when confronting Sen. Barbara Boxer on climate change legislation. At an Energy & Public Works Committee hearing,…

Topics: Environment

The miseducation of Texas

by Michelle Chen on July 17 2009, 5:46PM

President Obama stressed the importance of embracing history when he spoke of standing on the shoulders of giants this week at the NAACP convention. But in Texas, historical consciousness is imperiled in a debate over what to teach the…

Topics: Schools & Youth

Mean streets

by Michelle Chen on July 16 2009, 8:51PM

In neighborhoods across the country, the swelling of the homeless population has been met not with social services, housing, or even sympathy—but with handcuffs. The National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty…


New and improved 287(g)?

by Michelle Chen on July 15 2009, 9:11PM

Since the mid-1990s, the 287(g) program has become synonymous with racial profiling and police abuse. Now that civil rights advocates, local officials, editorial pages, and even some police have criticized the program as draconian and shortsighted, the government has…

Topics: Immigration