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.

Higher learning headed downward

by Michelle Chen on March 30 2009, 9:12PM

The fiscal crisis besieging state budgets is stretching America’s bootstrap mentality to a breaking point. Most states have slashed funds for higher education, including the community colleges and public universities that provide a critical avenue for low-income youth of…

Topics: Economy, Immigration, Schools & Youth

No refuge

by Michelle Chen on March 27 2009, 8:17PM

Thousands flock to America’s doorstep each year to flee torture, political persecution and other abuses. But many of the world’s huddled masses don’t get to breathe free after they land within U.S. borders. Thanks to draconian immigration laws, more…

Topics: Global Affairs, Immigration

The face of health inequity in Mississippi

by Michelle Chen on March 27 2009, 6:54AM

Imagine being sick and out of work, with a couple of miles and no car standing between you and the nearest public benefits office. You need medical care, but would you travel all that way to prove to the…

Topics: Health

Not derogatory, descriptive: Rev. Wright on the preacher and the politician

by Michelle Chen on March 26 2009, 2:08PM

About a year ago, the media controversy surrounding Reverend Jeremiah Wright threatened to derail Barack Obama’s presidential run. The candidate then deftly seized the moment to display an ability to balance disparate, conflicting perspectives on race in American politics….


Getting labor laws to work

by Michelle Chen on March 25 2009, 5:10PM

A worker trying to challenge a deadbeat boss may be better off leaving the authorities out of it. According to the Government Accountability Office, the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division has not proven very labor friendly in enforcing…


Ugly diplomacy from Geneva to Johannesburg

by Michelle Chen on March 25 2009, 2:49PM

In the lofty universe of international diplomacy, concepts such as “peace is good” and “racism is bad” might seem like no-brainers. But two summits that were supposed to celebrate these principles—an upcoming United Nations conference on racism and a…

Topics: Global Affairs

The global classroom

by Michelle Chen on March 24 2009, 4:15PM

If you’re a kid in a New York City classroom, there’s a good chance that your parents, and maybe you, were not born in the United States; there’s also a good chance that when it comes to participating in…

Topics: Immigration, Schools & Youth

Moving on from Plan B

by Michelle Chen on March 24 2009, 2:10PM

A federal court decision yesterday ordering the Food and Drug Administration to revisit a longstanding age restriction on “Plan B” emergency contraception could unblock a crucial birth-control option for underserved youth. The court found that the FDA’s 2006 decision…

Topics: Health

Another kind of toxic debt

by Michelle Chen on March 23 2009, 8:54PM

Unprecedented outrage over the Wall Street bailout has stoked accusations of criminality, both real and figurative, and calls for retributive justice. Incidentally, amid rising populist anger at white-collar depravity, some more conventional targets for public disdain are looking for…

Topics: Criminal Justice

Crisis on the other side

by Michelle Chen on March 23 2009, 2:42PM

Lately, politicians have made some bold pronouncements about violence along the US-Mexico border. Yet the economic downturn is posing a different, though related threat in Mexico, fueled by the volatile ebbs and flows of “free trade.” Dan LaBotz at…

Topics: Global Affairs, Immigration

Soldiers of color and the weight of war

by Michelle Chen on March 20 2009, 5:27PM

The Americans putting their lives on the line in combat are dying by their own hands at an alarming rate. The Army recently reported 133 confirmed suicides last year; 18 soldiers killed themselves in February alone. The public knows…

Topics: Health

Up against the wall

by Michelle Chen on March 20 2009, 5:27AM

Just days after huddling with Latino members of Congress on immigration issues, President Obama has zeroed in on the issue of border security, and the air of change is starting to smell a bit more like leftovers from the…

Topics: Global Affairs, Immigration

Calling it like they see it

by Michelle Chen on March 19 2009, 10:15PM

Often seen as a cloistered outpost of New York City, Long Island is now becoming known for the blight of racial violence. Last November, the killing of Marcelo Lucero, an Ecuadorean immigrant, sparked public outcry over hate crimes on…

Topics: Criminal Justice, Immigration

Rise of the Vulcans

by Michelle Chen on March 18 2009, 3:07PM

On top of offensive newspaper cartoons and systematic police stops of Blacks and Latinos, communities of color in New York City have yet another controversy to contemplate: color barriers in the ranks of New York’s “Bravest.” Tomorrow, a US…


Talking about sex, finally

by Michelle Chen on March 18 2009, 11:50AM

In the wake of alarming reports about the scourge of HIV/AIDS in the Black community and misconceptions on sexual health abroad, the question of how and when to teach youth about sex has gained new urgency. Congress now has…

Topics: Health

Health in Detention

by Michelle Chen on March 17 2009, 3:00PM

New reports from human rights groups issue a grim prognosis for the health of detained immigrants. Focusing on inadequacies in medical care for female detainees, Human Rights Watch documented abuses ranging from “delays in medical treatment and testing in…

Topics: Health, Immigration

Kids on the inside

by Michelle Chen on March 17 2009, 7:15AM

The beating death of a young prisoner at New York’s infamous Rikers Island jail was not an isolated incident; new evidence has emerged that even the facility’s staff was complicit in enforcing a system of brutality. According to local…

Topics: Criminal Justice

Peering into Waters

by Michelle Chen on March 16 2009, 1:56PM

Should we be shocked at reports that Rep. Maxine Waters, a staunch defender of fair lending on Capitol Hill, is at the center of a controversy over bailout ethics? The Times reported last week that in September, Waters requested a…

Topics: Economy

Taking the lending industry to court

by Michelle Chen on March 13 2009, 8:20PM

The NAACP has taken on lending industry behemoths in two class-action lawsuits against Wells Fargo and HSBC. The complaints, brought on behalf of Black Americans who have been victims of discriminatory lending, target: numerous mortgage lenders who are engaged…

Topics: Economy

Targeting military recruiters

by Michelle Chen on March 13 2009, 10:42AM

As the White House approaches an escalation of the war in Afghanistan, a major troop build-up is on the horizon. Yet community-based efforts are underway to keep young people from being drawn into the country’s military aggression. While organizations…