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.

Somali Americans Under Media Siege

by Michelle Chen on July 15 2009, 12:00PM

National headlines fall short of identifying how youth are marginalized in the United States.


Crowdsourcing Copwatch

by Michelle Chen on July 14 2009, 11:35PM

Your mobile device could be your most effective weapon against police brutality. The NAACP’s “rapid response” system, unveiled at the group’s annual convention this week, retools the Copwatch concept for the Digital Age. Through your mobile device, you can…


Tough questions on Sotomayor pushed out of Senate spotlight

by Michelle Chen on July 14 2009, 9:05PM

Between anti-abortion hecklers and spurned white firefighters, it was mostly a thought-free zone in the Senate today. But outside the Beltway, a few folks have tried to cut through partisan bloviating to critique Sotomayor’s jurisprudence from the left. On…


Coloring in the gaps in HIV/AIDS policy

by Michelle Chen on July 13 2009, 8:59PM

What does the HIV epidemic in America look like today? A coalition of advocacy groups has painted a picture of the crisis that no one wants to see—and one that can’t afford to be ignored by policymakers any longer….

Topics: Health

The moral equation of budget cuts

by Michelle Chen on July 10 2009, 8:18PM

Here we go again. California may soon seek to balance the budget on the backs of immigrant families. The LA Times reports that Governor Schwarzenegger has proposed imposing a five-year limit on state welfare support for citizen children of…

Topics: Economy, Immigration

Reorienting the stimulus

by Michelle Chen on July 10 2009, 3:01PM

The pushback against another stimulus package is in full force, with conservatives arguing that the “failure” of the first stimulus proves that another fiscal boost would be a mistake. Let us turn to the annals of wonkdom to establish…

Topics: Economy, Race and Recession

Birth in chains

by Michelle Chen on July 9 2009, 10:16PM

Last November, Venita’s baby was getting ready to enter the world, but Venita couldn’t move. While she was going into contractions, her ankles were shackled, her hands cuffed, and her waist tied. For extra assurance, her hands were further…


The Drug War: making Mexico safe for torture

by Michelle Chen on July 9 2009, 5:40PM

We can now point to torture as an example of bilateral cooperation between the United States and Mexico. The Washington Post reports today that Mexico’s military-led drug crackdown is tied to tactics like electrocuting people’s genitals, suffocation, and rape….


Bracing for the next Katrina

by Michelle Chen on July 8 2009, 9:20PM

Four years after its disastrous response to the Gulf Coast hurricane season, the Federal Emergency Management Agency still doesn’t have a basic plan to provide shelter for catastrophe-stricken communities. Homeland Security inspector general Richard Skinner testified at a House…

Topics: Katrina

Uncharitable compromises in health care reform

by Michelle Chen on July 8 2009, 4:56PM

Medical industry lobbyists are surgically inserting business-friendly compromises in the emerging health care reform plan. But who gets billed for those concessions? The hospital lobby has generously agreed to more than $150 billion in “cost savings” to help lower…


Language barriers in the courtroom

by Michelle Chen on July 7 2009, 7:39PM

When it comes to defending their rights, countless immigrants in the civil court system are at a loss for words. Although interpretation services are widely available in criminal cases, many non-English speakers in civil cases, which range from domestic…

Topics: Immigration

Children of Utah’s immigration crackdown

by Michelle Chen on July 7 2009, 3:51PM

Utah’s latest effort to clamp down on illegal immigration is hitting community-based child care providers on two fronts—undermining the businesses of immigrant care providers, and hurting the children of the low-income communities they serve. The state is rolling out…

Topics: Immigration

Green-collar jobs, blue-collar justice

by Michelle Chen on July 6 2009, 10:00PM

Bouncing off of Jonathan Yee’s analysis of the Recovery Act’s job training provisions: Economic analyst Tom Konrad tries to break down the green jobs puzzle at Grist. Citing the “Green Prosperity” report by the Natural Resources Defense Council and…


Uighurs in exile

by Michelle Chen on July 6 2009, 4:18PM

The Uighur detainees that the government recently shipped off from Gitmo to Bermuda have been bumped off the front pages lately. But the Turkic-speaking Muslim ethnic minority resurfaced in the headlines on Sunday—this time in the form of bloodshed…

Topics: National Security

Cookies and contracts

by Michelle Chen on July 3 2009, 10:32PM

The Stella D’Oro cookie factory workers—whom we last visited back in February as they toughed it out picketing through the dead of winter—have gotten a summer break. An administrative law judge with the National Labor Relations Board issued a…


Auditing away immigrant workers’ rights

by Michelle Chen on July 3 2009, 8:47PM

The Obama administration’s ambiguous promises on immigration reform are confusing enough, but the latest move to crack down on employers of undocumented immigrants may indicate that even if “comprehensive reform” legislation is on the horizon, justice for exploited immigrant…

Topics: Immigration

A higher standard

by Michelle Chen on July 3 2009, 5:23PM

Under the banner of reform and equal opportunity, the country is moving toward national education standards. But in education, a “common” standard isn’t necessarily an “equal” one, especially for the communities hardest hit by failures in public schools. EdWeek…

Topics: Schools & Youth

A breakdown of D.C.

by Michelle Chen on July 2 2009, 9:16PM

The Urban Institute and D.C. Alliance of Youth Advocates have released a databook on youth in Washington, D.C. It offers an up-close snapshot of intense socioeconomic and racial disparities concentrated in a single urban area, where the vast majority…


Race, Poverty and LGBT rights

by Michelle Chen on July 2 2009, 3:10PM

Is gay rights a white, middle class issue? Not if you’re a gay, poor person of color. Emerging research around socioeconomic status and the LGBT community underscores how the movement for LGBT equality operates neither in isolation nor at…


Edible equity

by Michelle Chen on July 1 2009, 11:52PM

The New York City Council is considering a resolution to promote environmental and social justice in the city’s food system through a “foodprint” initiative. The goal is to “encourage the maximum local food production, maximum sustainability and to involve…