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.

Occupational hazards

by Michelle Chen on April 28 2009, 3:38PM

With all the panic about pandemic flu, it’s easy to lose sight of more quotidian hazards. The AFL-CIO’s new report, “Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect,” may help put things in perspective. The report, based on 2006…


Indigenous perspectives on climate change

by Michelle Chen on April 27 2009, 9:26PM

Representatives of indigenous peoples from around the planet convened in Anchorage, Alaska last week to discuss the challenges that climate change poses to their communities. The Indigenous People’s Global Summit on Climate Change called for holistic solutions to global…

Topics: Environment, Global Affairs

The law of unintended consequences

by Michelle Chen on April 27 2009, 5:35PM

Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano indicated last week that she is open to reforming the Real ID Act—the controversial 2005 legislation that purported to standardize driver’s licenses and block access for undocumented immigrants and people deemed security threats. The…

Topics: Immigration, Politics

Blacks and immigrants: from ‘either-or’ to ‘both-and’

by Michelle Chen on April 24 2009, 10:00PM

While tea-baggers dominated the headlines over the past few weeks, another movement was quietly working to weave together communities that some want to see pitted against each other. The Black Immigration Network, a coalition led by the Black Alliance…

Topics: Immigration

Whose best interest?

by Michelle Chen on April 24 2009, 3:47PM

Weighing the future of a young mother and child in a Missouri court, Judge David C. Dally of Jasper County delivered this straightforward opinion: “Her lifestyle, that of smuggling herself into the country illegally and committing crimes in this…

Topics: Immigration

Shrunken hopes in urban America

by Michelle Chen on April 23 2009, 9:27PM

The recession is trampling communities around the country, but some cities are trying to get ahead of the curve by shrinking their own footprint. Declining cities like Flint, Michigan’s famously depressed auto-factory town, are deconstructing themselves to preserve what’s…

Topics: Katrina

Breaking down the achievement gap

by Michelle Chen on April 23 2009, 2:14PM

Two new studies parse the academic achievement gap on several dimensions—race, socioeconomic status and geography—yet the statistics barely scratch the surface. Analyzing the school systems of the country’s 50 largest cities, Cities in Crisis 2009—a report published by a…

Topics: Schools & Youth

Fire department takes heat for discrimination

by Michelle Chen on April 22 2009, 9:31PM

The Supreme Court today weighed a case that may change the way public safety institutions perceive “reverse racism.” It started when the fire department of New Haven, Connecticut decided to throw out the results a civil service exam, intended…


Seeding a green revolution

by Michelle Chen on April 22 2009, 2:21PM

On this Earth Day, those of us living in a world of carbon offsets and tempeh may want to step back and contemplate the most environmentally burdened communities, at home and abroad, for whom sustainability isn’t a matter of…

Topics: Environment, Global Affairs

On hostile ground

by Michelle Chen on April 21 2009, 9:09PM

From the Big Easy to the Georgia Woods, Latinos are finding themselves on hostile territory in the fields and factories of the South. The Southern Poverty Law Center has released a report on the widespread abuse to which low-wage…

Topics: Immigration

Not too old to be abandoned

by Michelle Chen on April 21 2009, 3:53PM

Older youth in the child welfare system tend to stay out of the public spotlight. Some might say they’re actively ignored. For many of the roughly 26,000 youth who “age out” of foster care each year, an eighteenth birthday…

Topics: Economy

English and equality in the classroom and the courts

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

Miriam Flores, 22, has bad memories of third grade. That was when she stopped being able to understand her teacher. As her family recounts the story, her grades dropped suddenly after her school in Nogales, Arizona, a town near…

Topics: Immigration, Schools & Youth

Real help for renters

by Michelle Chen on April 20 2009, 1:47PM

The economic crisis has pulled hundreds of thousands of families toward homelessness. Yet public resources for rental assistance remain out of sync with growing needs, according to an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The Center…


Sickness and health in East Harlem

by Michelle Chen on April 17 2009, 6:22PM

East Harlem has emerged as a flashpoint in the crossroads of science, public health and social inequity. An extensive study based at New York’s Mount Sinai Medical Center has released new findings about health risks that plague children of…

Topics: Health

The racial divide across the Atlantic

by Michelle Chen on April 17 2009, 2:58PM

In the global context, America’s problems with racism, diversity and segregation are unique in some ways, typical in others. The Center for American Progress has published an analysis comparing different challenges of racial and ethnic integration on both sides…

Topics: Global Affairs, Immigration

Something in the air

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

It took about a dozen years, but the Environmental Protection Agency is finally implementing plans to evaluate the health risks related to certain chemicals in pesticides. The testing program, part of the Food Quality Protection Act passed in 1996,…

Topics: Health

Parents in exile

by Michelle Chen on April 16 2009, 12:14PM

The threat of deportation has loomed heavily over immigrant communities for years, but the issue has never gained much traction in the mainstream immigration debate, perhaps owing to the stigma surrounding so-called “criminal” deportees. But research published by Human…

Topics: Immigration

Priced out of justice

by Michelle Chen on April 15 2009, 4:50PM

If you’re accused of a crime, you have a right to a competent lawyer. That’s what the Constitution says, anyway. The Sixth Amendment plays out differently when you’re standing before a judge and your court-appointed counsel is dozing off…

Topics: Criminal Justice

Is the drug war leveling out?

by Michelle Chen on April 15 2009, 2:44PM

The latest trend lines suggest the war on drugs is becoming perversely more equal. Between 1999 and 2005, the number of white drug offenders in state prisons rose about 43 percent, while the number of Black offenders declined by…

Topics: Criminal Justice

English immersion, educational exclusion

by Michelle Chen on April 14 2009, 8:36PM

How long does it take to make a child give up on school? Since the 2003 academic year, Boston has pushed public school students with limited English ability—who speak everything from Cantonese to Haitian Creole—into “Sheltered English Immersion” programs….

Topics: Immigration, Schools & Youth