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.

Post-deluge: taking stock of New Orleans

by Michelle Chen on February 25 2009, 6:21AM

Fat Tuesday ushered in the perennial human-interest media showcase on New Orleans. And judging from news reports on the festivities, you’d think the Big Easy were well on the road to recovery, experiencing something of a resurgence, even amid…

Topics: Katrina

Immigration by the numbers

by Michelle Chen on February 24 2009, 7:22PM

The Department of Homeland Security has released new data on the immigrant population, suggesting that the flow of undocumented immigrants may be stagnating: “the number of unauthorized immigrants living in the United States declined from 11.8 million in January 2007…

Topics: Immigration

“Everybody wants to bring their country here”

by Michelle Chen on February 23 2009, 7:42PM

Adjusting the focus on South Asia through two narratives: one set halfway around the globe, the other just around the corner. Juan Cole and Mitu Sengupta both reflect on the cultural impact of Danny Boyle’s dramatization of slum life…

Topics: Immigration

Renegade homesteaders

by Michelle Chen on February 20 2009, 2:50PM

It took a total collapse of the mortgage bubble to expose the intrinsic contradictions of the country’s housing system: the foreclosure epidemic has produced countless idle houses, inviting blight and economic decline into once-vibrant neighborhoods; and on the flipside,…


Remembering exclusion

by Michelle Chen on February 19 2009, 8:29PM

On this day in 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, setting in motion one of the most systematic acts of racial exclusion of the century. Against the backdrop of global warfare and political paranoia, the order…


Haitian deportees: neither here nor there

by Michelle Chen on February 18 2009, 6:35PM

The U.S. government has been deporting immigrants by the thousands, but at least one group of people facing an “order of removal” aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Activists are protesting in the wake of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s announcement…

Topics: Immigration

From outsider to criminal

by Michelle Chen on February 18 2009, 4:27PM

The Pew Hispanic Center has released a report detailing an intense growth in the number of Latinos sentenced in the federal court system. Contrasting sharply with historical trends, the growing Latino presence among sentenced offenders is both predictable and unnerving…

Topics: Immigration

Getting more out of green

by Michelle Chen on February 17 2009, 2:53PM

Environmentalists are excited about the stimulus package, which includes fresh funding for green infrastructure and green jobs. Now the task before community advocates, organized labor, and the environmental movement is peering through the political hype to turn the concept…


Narrowing the gates to opportunity

by Michelle Chen on February 16 2009, 6:08PM

As some doors open for immigrants and others close, the gateway to citizenship remains mired in politics. The Pentagon is attempting to pull more immigrants into its ranks with a new“fast-track” to full legal status. The aim is to draw…

Topics: Immigration, Schools & Youth

The picture of health, in color

by Michelle Chen on February 13 2009, 3:30PM

Two new studies examine how race colors the health care system, revealing new angles on environmental and social influences on the health of Blacks and Latinos. A study by National Cancer Institute researchers found that crippling health care costs…

Topics: Health

What’s so special about February?

by Michelle Chen on February 13 2009, 2:11PM

Amid the confusion and excitement about the shape of racial politics under the new administration, the idea of Black History Month has taken on new shades of appreciation—and derision. Some thoughts about the purpose of Black History (or African…

Topics: History

Juvenile justice report

by Michelle Chen on February 12 2009, 1:56PM

Some interesting recent twists at the intersection of youth and the prison system. A dozen young people in the custody of Massachusetts Department of Youth Services could soon be liberated, thanks to a Supreme Judicial Court decision striking down a…

Topics: Criminal Justice

Government jobs, and jobs with justice

by Michelle Chen on February 11 2009, 1:53PM

The pushback against the job-creation initiatives in the stimulus drips with the right’s enduring faith in the private sector. Why should the government be in the business of creating jobs, say Michael Steele and other private-sector cheerleaders. For a more…

Topics: Economy

Throwing money over the border

by Michelle Chen on February 11 2009, 9:45AM

Today, the Migration Policy Institute issued an interesting review of Homeland Security immigration policies. The Institute focuses on immigration processing and border policies, with various recommendations for streamlining (and in many cases, strengthening) enforcement programs. The data compiled in the…

Topics: Immigration

When laws break people: Cambodian immigrant voices

by Michelle Chen on February 10 2009, 7:56PM

Tonight on WBAI’s Asia Pacific Forum, two stories of Cambodian-Americans uprooted by deportation reveal the human impact of little-known aspects of immigration policy. A segment on Keo and Borom Chea, sister and brother, reveals how laws that are ostensibly…

Topics: Immigration

Immigration and the meaning of social security

by Michelle Chen on February 10 2009, 3:15PM

Social security, the economy, and immigration have fallen into a very strange orbit in the debate over the stimulus package. Efforts by conservatives to use the economic stimulus bill to expand the controversial e-Verify system seem to be on shaky…

Topics: Immigration

Children of the foreclosure crisis

by Michelle Chen on February 9 2009, 6:41PM

Will the wave of foreclosures now engulfing the country create a new homelessness crisis? The youngest victims are emerging: the children whose families and educational futures are suddenly uprooted as the housing market spirals into free-fall. Though comprehensive school enrollment…

Topics: Economy, Schools & Youth

New York food workers challenge unsavory labor practices

by Michelle Chen on February 6 2009, 2:25PM

New York City is known for its diverse cuisine, but few recognize that the food business is driven by an equally diverse workforce—one wracked by extreme hardship for workers who cook, bake and clean in the back of the…

Topics: Economy

Understanding AIDS in the Black community

by Michelle Chen on February 6 2009, 1:28PM

A new report on AIDS in Black America, published this week by the Black AIDS Institute, reveals how HIV and AIDS have impacted the Black community and how racial health disparities are fueling an epidemic. Among the findings, new statistics…

Topics: Health

Dropping the rock

by Michelle Chen on February 5 2009, 11:30AM

This week, New York took a decisive step toward reforming the Rockefeller Drug Laws—the notorious mandatory-minimum sentencing rules that have driven the mass incarceration of people of color over the past generation. Despite some marginal reforms in recent years, the…

Topics: Politics