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.

Desperation in detention

by Michelle Chen on February 4 2009, 3:00PM

Violence and unrest are bleeding through the system of immigrant detention centers dotting the country, where the government warehouses the undocumented who have been swept from the shadows of the economy into the shadows of the immigration system. According…

Topics: Immigration

New name, same game for immigration enforcement?

by Michelle Chen on February 2 2009, 8:41PM

Activists looking to the Obama administration to repudiate Bush’s most draconian immigration policies may find little to cheer about so far under Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. A new policy directive from her office seems geared toward refining the status…

Topics: Immigration

Nerves of Steele

by Michelle Chen on January 30 2009, 2:40PM

Some initial reactions to the Republican National Committee’s first Black chair: After the vote, John Gizzi at Human Events reports: “…a number of RNC members who backed Steele clearly felt it was a better image for the party to have…


Haiti on the horizon

by Michelle Chen on January 30 2009, 1:42PM

Rocked by disaster and social upheaval, Haiti stands at the center of several political storms. Currently, thousands of Haitian immigrants are hoping the government will grant temporary protection from deportation so they can avoid returning to the ravages of the…

Topics: Global Affairs, Immigration

The color of a fair paycheck

by Michelle Chen on January 29 2009, 1:27PM

The first piece of legislation President Obama signed into law helps inch forward the struggle for economic equity. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act won’t undo historically entrenched income gaps, but it will expand the timetable for workers to sue…

Topics: Economy

An ugly portrait

by Michelle Chen on January 29 2009, 12:41PM

Sometimes cold statistics can make disturbing truths more real. A new report, “A Portrait of Mississippi,” underscores racial disparities that, while not surprising, have seldom been so intricately documented until now.’ The study is an offshoot of Measure of America…

Topics: Economy, Health

Reproductive justice and the stimulus

by Michelle Chen on January 27 2009, 2:59PM

A few days ago, the Obama administration raised hopes about a more equitable reproductive health policy by lifting the so-called “global gag rule.” But on the domestic front, the new White House is retrenching on reproductive justice, hoping to avoid…

Topics: Health

Climate Justice in NYC

by Michelle Chen on January 26 2009, 8:28PM

Will communities of color have a place at the table now that the Obama administration is poised to break the political gridlock on climate change policy? The New York City-based environmental justice organization WE ACT presents a national forum on…


Immigrants and economic recovery

by Michelle Chen on January 26 2009, 1:45PM

While the standard nativist rhetoric denounces illegal immigration as a drain on public resources and the “legal” workforce, in times of economic crisis, the flipside of the debate—immigrants as an economic resource—may gain more traction. The William C. Velásquez Institute…

Topics: Immigration

English-only defeated in Nashville

by Michelle Chen on January 23 2009, 3:57PM

An initiative to establish English as the official language in Nashville was defeated yesterday, bucking a nationwide conservative push for “official English” in response to perceptions about immigrant populations. The city’s “English first” initiative would have basically mandated that all…

Topics: Immigration

Healthcare reform and communities of color

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

Health gaps across racial lines have been well documented. A new report suggests that healthcare reform is also a vital economic development issue for communities of color. The Mainstreet Alliance, a healthcare advocacy coalition focused on small businesses, has published…

Topics: Health

Rights without borders

by Michelle Chen on January 22 2009, 3:20PM

Behind the inaugural celebration was a backdrop of global turmoil that will push the project of“remaking America” far beyond US borders. The question of America’s role in the world casts another light on the civil rights struggles stretching from King’s…

Topics: Global Affairs

In the moment

by Michelle Chen on January 20 2009, 1:30PM

I’m just catching up to the inaugural festivities now after returning from a visit to Bedford Hills, a maximum-security prison in Westchester, NY. As I listened to the broadcast of the ceremony on the train back to the city, my…


The content of his character: views on Obama and change

by Michelle Chen on January 19 2009, 1:58PM

According to a new CNN poll, a significant majority of Black Americans believe the dream of Martin Luther King, Jr. has been “fulfilled.” And yet the optimism about race relations has faded somewhat since the post-election euphoria has begun to…


Targeted neighborhoods, pt 1: Israel and al-Daraj

by Michelle Chen on January 16 2009, 5:38PM

If there were ever such a thing as an opportunely timed war crimes case, the Center for Constitutional Rights scored a slam dunk today. The human rights law firm argued Matar v. Dichter before an appeals court in downtown Manhattan….

Topics: News Items

Targeted neighborhoods, pt. 2: NYPD stop and frisk

by Michelle Chen on January 16 2009, 5:23PM

A new, disturbingly timely report by the Center for Constitutional Rights documents glaring racial disparities in the stops and searches carried out by New York City police. The analysis is hardly surprising, but the data does provide statistical muscle to…

Topics: Criminal Justice, Politics


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

Rising from the flat South Dakota landscape, the Lulyahan Oti shelter is a testament to a core value of the Oglala Lakota: fortitude. The modest building houses the only program of its kind for survivors of domestic violence and sexual…


Home from the Military

by Michelle Chen on July 1 2008, 12:00PM

A third of female veterans are women of color. Here are three of their stories. Also, listen to clips from their interviews.

Topics: Gender & Sexuality

AUDIO: Home from the Military

by Michelle Chen on July 1 2008, 12:00PM

Listen to the stories of war veterans who are women of color.

Topics: Gender & Sexuality

Reclaiming Radio

by Michelle Chen on March 20 2008, 12:00PM

Alternative radio projects attempt to take back the public sphere.

Topics: Arts & Culture