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.

Hurting or helping the hungry?

by Michelle Chen on June 8 2009, 4:15PM

Let’s say you’re hungry. In your backyard, dewy tomatoes dangle from robust vines, and hormone-free Holsteins graze in the shade of lush fruit orchards. But you’re mysteriously pulled down the street into a sprawling supermarket, where your shopping cart…

Topics: Global Affairs

A fair hearing for immigrants

by Michelle Chen on June 5 2009, 3:47AM

In the waning days of the Bush administration, the Justice Department clamped down on the right of immigrants to “effective” legal counsel. Essentially, the administration figured that a lawyer’s incompetence shouldn’t be grounds for holding up a deportation order in…

Topics: Immigration

Reading between the lines in Cairo

by Michelle Chen on June 4 2009, 9:21PM

President Obama’s speech in Cairo aspired to recast America’s relations with the “Muslim world.” The response of Muslim observers in the so-called Western world ranged from cautious hope to detached cynicism. But across the board, people noted Obama’s careful…

Topics: Global Affairs

To breathe free

by Michelle Chen on June 3 2009, 8:53PM

The connection between housing and child development has attracted considerable public fascination—most recently with the dissection of how young Sonia Sotomayor, growing up in a Bronx housing project, “overcame the odds.” One New York advocacy group is putting a…

Topics: Health

Family unity, redefined

by Michelle Chen on June 3 2009, 4:42PM

Immigration and LGBT rights seem like two political third rails that wouldn’t cross in Washington. But a Senate hearing today discussed legislation that would elegantly fuse the two, by equalizing immigration law for same-sex partners. The Uniting American Families…

Topics: Immigration

Taking the sixth

by Michelle Chen on June 2 2009, 6:28PM

Prosecutors can thank the Supreme Court for making their job a bit easier, in a ruling that expands police authority to interrogate a suspect who does not have legal representation present. In Montejo v. State of Louisiana, Jesse Montejo…

Topics: Criminal Justice

Follow the money

by Michelle Chen on June 2 2009, 4:17PM

The White House is rolling out a fresh round of New Market Tax Credits as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The program is designed to basically sweeten the pot for investors so they will finance development…

Topics: Economy

Mistaken identity

by Michelle Chen on June 1 2009, 9:26PM

The death of Officer Omar Edwards strikes a weary nerve in New York City—one that grows more raw with each racially loaded police shooting. In 1940, a strikingly similar story made the headlines: a black officer, John A. Holt,…


Downsizing prisons

by Michelle Chen on June 1 2009, 2:04PM

For poor and distressed neighborhoods, the recession is the latest in a cascade of troubles. Yet state budget woes are also eating away at an institution that has historically contributed to the problems endemic in many communities of color….

Topics: Criminal Justice

Something rotten in Philly

by Michelle Chen on May 29 2009, 9:35PM

Remember school lunch? The shoe-leather hamburgers, bruised fruit and cardboard pizza? The federal government thinks it might just be too good for thousands of kids in Philadelphia. Yes, many children could soon be deprived of this hallmark of American…


Chilling effects

by Michelle Chen on May 29 2009, 4:59PM

Clinton-era welfare reform is perhaps best known for shoving people off the welfare rolls at a breakneck speed. A more subtle impact has been a drastic restriction on immigrants’ access to public programs. Currently, most immigrants are subject to…

Topics: Immigration

Freedom of association

by Michelle Chen on May 28 2009, 10:03PM

The fight over the Employee Free Choice Act is getting uglier by the day. While the business interests campaign hard to kill the legislation, the labor movement is trying to beef up its offense by broadening it. The bill…

Topics: Politics

Today’s slave trade

by Michelle Chen on May 28 2009, 3:22PM

A new human trafficking indictment could be a preview into the prospects and limitations of immigration law enforcement under the new administration. A group of Missouri-based employers face allegations of importing immigrants for low-wage service jobs that amounted to…

Topics: Immigration

Foreclosures Fuel Political Activism

by Michelle Chen on May 28 2009, 12:00PM

Groups are trying to stay one step ahead of the economic forces eroding their communities.


Framing terror

by Michelle Chen on May 28 2009, 3:41AM

The White House has made a point of retiring the “war on terror,” as a term of art, but this past week has proven that the tropes underlying that phrase have a long half life: the “terrorists” are everywhere…

Topics: National Security

The empathy card

by Michelle Chen on May 27 2009, 4:25PM

Following Obama’s pointed references to “compassion” when explaining his views on the Supreme Court, it only took a few minutes for conservative opponents to declare their official war on “empathy,” replete with veiled race and gender-based attacks. So you’d…


An American birthright

by Michelle Chen on May 26 2009, 10:35PM

Nativist zealots may finally be coming around to the realization that they cannot stop immigrants from becoming a permanent part of the country’s social fabric. That must be why Nathan Deal has dreamed up another plan to keep foreigners…

Topics: Immigration

She rests her case

by Michelle Chen on May 26 2009, 4:49PM

Yep, he did. President Obama has tapped Sonia Sotomayor for highest court in the land. The Senate Democratic majority ensures that the confirmation of the first Latina Supreme Court justice should be relatively smooth sailing. But the opposition won’t…


The gang aptitude test

by Michelle Chen on May 25 2009, 4:50PM

Pop quiz: Do any of the following describe you? I try to be nice to other people because I care about their feelings. I get very angry and “lose my temper” (yell or get mad). I do as I…

Topics: Criminal Justice, Politics

Remembering the forgotten

by Michelle Chen on May 25 2009, 2:17PM

For all the somber speeches and ceremonies, an untold number of people impacted by war remain all but forgotten on Memorial Day. In the Nation, Helen Benedict takes a look at the hidden war of women soldiers (excerpted from…