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.

A dirty job

by Michelle Chen on May 22 2009, 10:12PM

It’s not every day that the police admit that they don’t want to do their work, or that they’re bad at it. So it’s worth noting that the Police Foundation, a think tank focused “innovation and improvement in policing,”…

Topics: Immigration

SCOTUS and identity politics: Newyorkricans vs. wise white men

by Michelle Chen on May 22 2009, 9:02PM

The crusade for colorblindness has gained momentum in the media scrutiny of Sonia Sotomayor, a reported front-runner for the Supreme Court, and a self-proclaimed Newyorkrican. Amidst tense disputes over Sotomayor’s qualifications and ideological leanings, Stuart Taylor’s latest National Journal…


Deportation while U wait

by Michelle Chen on May 22 2009, 5:03PM

Immigration court often involves lengthy legal disputes and tedious bureaucracy. At one downtown Los Angeles courthouse, however, officials have found an efficient way to cut through the red tape: kicking people out of the country without waiting for a…

Topics: Immigration

Preventive Detention: The Usual Suspects

by Michelle Chen on May 21 2009, 4:49PM

President Obama’s speech at the National Archives today resonated with comforting rhetoric about constitutional principles and the careful balance between national security and transparency. But for human rights activists, Obama’s words contained troubling echoes of the last administration. He…


The educational experiment

by Michelle Chen on May 20 2009, 8:54PM

The federal economic stimulus will pump millions of dollars into “innovation in education.” If that sounds vague, that’s kind of the point. The money will be targeted to nonprofit-led school reform initiatives that aim broadly to raise student achievement….

Topics: Schools & Youth

No time like the present

by Michelle Chen on May 20 2009, 4:30PM

What’s the right political moment to address immigration reform? Homeland Security Chief Janet Napolitano expressed reluctance to tackle immigration reform in the midst of an economic downturn—citing typical, and typically dubious, arguments about immigrants and jobs. She told reporters…


Greening the recession

by Michelle Chen on May 19 2009, 9:10PM

Underneath the headlines trumpeting signs of “recovery” are sobering figures on the bottom rungs of the economy. The Economic Policy Institute projects calculates that high rates of joblessness have resulted in a 7.8 million deficit in payroll employment. Between…

Topics: Economy, Environment

School safety

by Michelle Chen on May 19 2009, 5:11PM

Our schools go to great lengths to teach kids a lesson. Cedric Napoleon, a 14 year-old with behavioral problems at a Killeen, Texas public school, wouldn’t stay put in his seat. So his teacher restrained him by pinning him…

Topics: Schools & Youth

“Willfully and maliciously”

by Michelle Chen on May 18 2009, 7:15PM

What happened to Javaid Iqbal in some of the most shadowy corners of post-9/11 American law enforcement was not the responsibility of top White House officials, according to the Supreme Court. The case, Iqbal v. Ashcroft, involved the question of…

Topics: Immigration

Case closed

by Michelle Chen on May 18 2009, 3:37PM

When prosecutors are hell bent on scoring a conviction, some will go to any length to make their case. In an article profiling two men with convictions who believe DNA evidence will exonerate them, the New York Times reports…

Topics: Criminal Justice

Appetite for equity

by Michelle Chen on May 15 2009, 9:20PM

Do we care more about the chemicals on the tomatoes in the produce aisle than the people who pick them? Sarah Newman at Alternet writes that the green veneer of organic food often masks exploitative labor conditions, as major…

Topics: Environment

Balancing the nest egg

by Michelle Chen on May 15 2009, 4:37PM

In the wake of the new Social Security and Medicare trustee reports, the media and doomsaying politicians are drumming up panic about the pending implosion of America’s nest egg. Critics say this is a perrennial campaign of nonsense, and…


Ag Jobs: pragmatism and justice

by Michelle Chen on May 14 2009, 6:27PM

Today, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) reintroduced the Agricultural Job Opportunities, Benefits, and Security Act (Ag Jobs) bill. Though the concept of farm guestworkers, and their rampant exploitation, has historically been one of the thorniest immigration labor issues, Ag Jobs…

Topics: Immigration

An American dream, deferred

by Michelle Chen on May 14 2009, 3:29PM

Homeownership has long been touted as the cornerstone of the American dream and a tool for narrowing the racial wealth gap. Has the foreclosure crisis extinguished that hope, or exposed the myths that drive it? The Pew Hispanic Center…

Topics: Economy, Immigration

Post-marriage motherhood

by Michelle Chen on May 14 2009, 2:51AM

America is experiencing a single-mom boom. Federal health authorities report that about 40 percent of births in 2007 were to unmarried women, up from 34 percent in 2002. Keeping with previous patterns, the highest rates and largest increases were…


Black, indigenous, and reclaiming history

by Michelle Chen on May 13 2009, 9:11PM

Blacks and American Indians have been bonded by hardship and social upheaval since the dawn of the country, and now the government that has historically oppressed both communities is mediating the crossroads between them. Lawmakers and activists are pressing…


Profits and equity in health reform

by Michelle Chen on May 12 2009, 10:02PM

The healthcare industry brought us some good news this week: after years of astronomical spending growth and tens of millions left with no coverage, lobbyists have purportedly gotten religion on health care reform. Advocates for private insurers and other industry…

Topics: Health

Just words?: Human rights and the White House

by Michelle Chen on May 12 2009, 5:24PM

The United States took a seat today in the the U.N. Human Rights Council, thawing the chill set by the Bush administration between Washington and the world’s highest human rights body. Yet membership on the Council hardly guarantees progress…

Topics: Global Affairs

Family-friendly corrections

by Michelle Chen on May 11 2009, 10:22PM

Many imprisoned women spent this past Sunday alone, cut off from their communities, maybe wondering anxiously about children left in the care of relatives or a stranger’s foster home. But some passed a more conventional version of Mother’s Day…

Topics: Criminal Justice

The cost of shelter

by Michelle Chen on May 11 2009, 7:49PM

The nation’s housing crisis is now following thousands of New Yorkers all the way to the shelter doors. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg plans to effectively force working homeless people in shelters to pay a portion of their…