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.

Disaster rolls on

by Michelle Chen on May 8 2009, 10:05PM

As millions of Americans struggle to save their homes from foreclosure, refugees of an earlier catastrophe are facing the latest in a series of displacements. This time, they’re clinging to the makeshift shelters that were supposed to serve as…

Topics: Katrina

Do no harm

by Michelle Chen on May 8 2009, 5:00PM

The ethical questions at the intersection of psychology and national security can make your head spin. Newly released email exchanges, from a listserv associated with the American Psychological Association, affirm various other news reports that document’ how psychological professionals…

Topics: Global Affairs

Putting the kids away

by Michelle Chen on May 7 2009, 10:32PM

Compared to children in other countries with similar resources, America’s youth tend to be a mediocre bunch in rankings of education, infant survival and overall well-being. But the United States has earned one major distinction in how it treats…

Topics: Criminal Justice

A break for working parents

by Michelle Chen on May 7 2009, 4:25PM

When sickness and economic hardship hit a family at once, crisis isn’t far behind. An employer might help by letting parents take time off to care for ill loved ones or newborns without taking it out of their paychecks. But…


Wasted minds

by Michelle Chen on May 6 2009, 10:15PM

The debate over the public cost of prisons has focused largely the drain on taxpayer funds and social services. Now there’s evidence that it may be costing us our sanity, too. An article in the May/June issue of Health…

Topics: Health

Enriching poor kids

by Michelle Chen on May 6 2009, 4:38PM

It pays to start early when trying to set kids on the right path. Comprehensive preschool programs have been linked to better outcomes for children later in life, with lower rates of criminal justice involvement and higher earnings. Giving…

Topics: Economy, Schools & Youth

Framing Race in Mississippi

by Michelle Chen on May 6 2009, 12:00PM

New research shows how deep the racial fault lines run.


No homes. No jobs. Not even beds at shelters. Here’s how families are fighting to stay together.

by Michelle Chen on May 6 2009, 12:00PM

Last fall, Yolanda James and her three children were lost in their own city. After foreclosure had forced them from their South Los Angeles apartment, they ran into closed doors at every turn. Aid agencies offered referrals to other offices,…


Color-blinders: race, genes and justice

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

When, why and for whom does race matter? Those questions crop up every time the public receives a new batch of data tracing connections between race and inequality, especially in the realm of academic achievement. At Slate, William Saletan,…

Topics: Schools & Youth

To catch a thief: SCOTUS on undocumented workers

by Michelle Chen on May 5 2009, 5:18PM

The Supreme Court gave the feds an important grammar lesson yesterday when it clamped down a common legal weapon used against immigrants: “identity theft” charges that target undocumented workers using falsified documents. According to the Court’s opinion: Section §1028(a)(1)…

Topics: Immigration

Mother’s Day behind bars

by Michelle Chen on May 4 2009, 9:35PM

Just in time for Mother’s Day, advocates for incarcerated women will make the case for reform to New York’s lawmakers this week. The Coalition for Women Prisoners, a network of advocacy and service organizations that monitors state prison conditions,…


“It wasn’t their priority”

by Michelle Chen on May 4 2009, 6:15PM

We may never know their true motivations, but according to a jury in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, whatever drove a group of teens to beat a Mexican immigrant to death last year, “ethnic intimidation” apparently had nothing to do with…

Topics: Criminal Justice, Immigration

Labor behind closed doors

by Michelle Chen on May 1 2009, 6:38PM

The coalescence of May Day and Equal Pay Day this week was an apt moment to demand justice for some of the country’s most vulnerable and least visible workers. Domestic workers are isolated both physically and legally from labor…

Topics: Immigration

Cutely offensive

by Michelle Chen on May 1 2009, 4:35PM

Lest the flippant liberal blogosphere miss the flu-hysteria bandwagon, Huffington Post blogger Betsy Perry wasted no time parroting the right’s xenophobic spew this week. Proving that lame racial humor knows no political boundaries, Perry—who serves on New York City Mayor…

Topics: Immigration

Punishing Workers Through Bosses

by Michelle Chen on May 1 2009, 3:12PM

The Obama administration has taken tentative steps toward reorienting the immigration debate, ostensibly moving the focus from undocumented workers onto their employers. According to an announcement released Thursday by Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is centering its…

Topics: Immigration

City of lost children

by Michelle Chen on April 30 2009, 5:16PM

Data trickling out of New York City’s education system suggests as schools have pushed up test scores, they’ve also pushed out more students. A study released by the Public Advocate’s office shows that between 2000 and 2007, more than…

Topics: Schools & Youth

A law good enough to be hated

by Michelle Chen on April 30 2009, 3:50PM

Perhaps it’s just too easy to blame the financial crisis on Wall Street’s avarice and Washington’s deregulatory frenzy. Hence the right-wing punditry’s talent for ascribing just about any calamity to poor Black people. Since the early days of the…

Topics: Economy

Doublespeak on “race relations”

by Michelle Chen on April 29 2009, 9:31PM

If you believe the polls, about two in three Americans believe race relations are now “generally good”—a significant increase since July 2008. The number of Black people who feel this way is also up sharply. Similarly, more people, among…


Crack, powder and kicking butt in drug policy

by Michelle Chen on April 29 2009, 5:31PM

After years of frustration under Reagan-era drug laws, a Senate subcommittee hearing today parsed the fine line between crack and powder. The notorious 100-to-1 gap between sentencing policies for powder and crack cocaine is a linchpin of the mandatory-sentencing…

Topics: Criminal Justice, Politics

Standing up on Desert Rock

by Michelle Chen on April 28 2009, 9:10PM

An environmental justice struggle in the heart of Indian Country took a new turn on Monday, with a decision by the Obama administration to reconsider a permit for a proposed power plant in New Mexico. The planned Desert Rock…

Topics: Environment