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.

Economic Inequality from Cradle to Grave

by Michelle Chen on May 24 2010, 9:27AM

What’s an acceptable level of social inequality? The loaded answer is obviously “none.” But it seems that few people realize what the socioeconomic gaps across racial and gender lines aren’t just about paychecks of different sizes. The damage lasts far…

Topics: Economy, Race and Recession

Is the DREAM Act a Military Recruiter’s Dream, too?

by Michelle Chen on May 20 2010, 10:03AM

Activists across the country have rallied around the DREAM Act as a first step toward comprehensive immigration reform. The DREAM Act, which broadens undocumented youths’ access to higher education, basically granting conditional relief to enable students to finish their…

Topics: Immigration

McCain Ad Promotes “Danged” Fence He Once Thought Danged Dumb [Video]

by Michelle Chen on May 17 2010, 10:30AM

Sen. John McCain’s touting his 10-point Border Security Plan—a familiar right-wing wish list of ways to militarize the border—in a campaign ad that presents him as just the kind of stalwart border vigilante who could win over angry constituents…

Topics: Immigration, Politics

Demographics of Abortion: Race, Poverty and Choice

by Michelle Chen on May 7 2010, 9:30AM

What kind of a woman gets an abortion these days? The Guttmacher Institute has released a report that tracks abortion rates across different demographic groups. One of the most stunning findings, particularly in light of the newhealth care reform legislation,…

Topics: Health

Immigration Law and Disorder

by Michelle Chen on May 3 2010, 12:00PM

Cops around the country warn that they can’t control crime if they’ve got to hunt civil visa violations, too.


SB 1070’s Impact on Kids: Broken Families and America’s Soul

by Michelle Chen on May 3 2010, 9:01AM

Children are the hidden casualties of America’s war on immigrants, and the passage of Arizona’s new racial profiling legislation could open up countless opportunities for local law enforcement to break up families by putting undocumented parents on the fast-track to…

Topics: Immigration

The Softer Side of Hate Crime?

by Michelle Chen on April 30 2010, 11:03AM

When should a teenage killer be viewed with sympathy? The New York Times broached that issue yesterday with a long profile of Jeffrey Conroy, recently convicted in the case of the stabbing death of Ecuadorian immigrant Marcelo Lucero. While press…

Topics: Criminal Justice

Lessons from Cochabamba on Borders, Labels and Justice

by Michelle Chen on April 22 2010, 5:50PM

It’s fitting that migration has been a major focus at the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, which brought thousands from all around the world to gather and discuss the racial, socioeconomic and…

Topics: Environment, Global Affairs, Immigration

Power to the (Digital) People

by Michelle Chen on April 20 2010, 4:04PM

Digital media is changing the size, scope and speed of activism. But when working with relatively disadvantaged or alienated populations, getting the message across lines of race, language and socioeconomic status are often at least as difficult online as it…


Abandoning Justice for Power in South Africa

by Michelle Chen on April 19 2010, 8:00AM

South Africa has been struggling for over a decade to overcome the vestiges of apartheid, and to this day is constantly challenged by racial conflict and socioeconomic inequality. And as if there weren’t enough obstacles strewn in the country’s rocky…

Topics: Environment, Global Affairs

Life After Katrina in 2010: Human Rights on the Gulf Coast

by Michelle Chen on April 11 2010, 6:45AM

“I am tired of living like this. They were not even listening to my crying. They think it’s a joke but it’s really not.” —DeBorah W., hurricane survivor and resident of New Orleans, describing her struggle to find a new…

Topics: Katrina

Lessons of Rage in South Africa

by Michelle Chen on April 6 2010, 6:16PM

The 69 year-old white supremacist leader Eugene Terre’Blanche, the notorious founder of the ultra-right Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB) of South Africa, recently died a gruesome death. Authorities say the gory beating and hacking, allegedly at the hands of two farmworkers, was…

Topics: Global Affairs, Politics

Are Haitians Forgoing Temporary Protected Status?

by Michelle Chen on April 3 2010, 7:20AM

Homeland Security recently reported that only a small fraction of Haitian immigrants potentially eligible for special immigration relief through Temporary Protected Status (TPS) have actually sought that benefit. Immigrant advocates and humanitarian groups lauded the granting of TPS in the…

Topics: Immigration

Obama Finds his Box in Census 2010

by Michelle Chen on April 2 2010, 10:07PM

The New York Times reports that Obama has officially declared himself the nation’s first Black president, via the census form: The president, who was born in Hawaii and raised there and in Indonesia, had more than a dozen options in…


A Black Agenda That Works for Everyone: Jobs and ‘Targeted Universalism’

by Michelle Chen on April 1 2010, 8:00AM

Every year, the National Urban League issues its report on the State of Black America, and it almost inevitably shows that black Americans fare worse than whites in almost every measure of socioeconomic well-being. Black workers and households are poorer,…

Topics: Economy, Race and Recession

Classroom to Courtroom: Lawsuit Tackles Rhode Island’s Court for ‘Wayward’ Students

by Michelle Chen on March 30 2010, 6:15AM

Rhode Island wants its kids to stay in school. Or else. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on Monday charging that the state’s anti-truancy policy not only ignores children’s legitimate reasons for not attending school, but subjects…

Topics: Schools & Youth

Nation’s Report Card on Schools: Needs Improvement

by Michelle Chen on March 26 2010, 7:24PM

Two dramas played out in the education system this week. While New York activists scored a court ruling barring the closure of 19 “underperforming” schools, Washington mulled over the latest national report card in reading and math. The results of…

Topics: Schools & Youth

American Names: The Census Top 30

by Michelle Chen on March 24 2010, 11:19AM

Ever wonder why politicians and ordinary skeptics get all anxious when it’s time for the census? Numbers often say a lot more about the state of the country than we think. As the immigration battle kicks into high gear,…


Pay as They Go: The Cruel Calculus of Deportation

by Michelle Chen on March 21 2010, 1:02AM

On Sunday, thousands are set to rally in the capital to demand a just and fair immigration policy. Though the protesters will try to make their voices ring as loud as ever, perhaps nothing will speak more to the cause…

Topics: Immigration, Politics

School Grounds as Battlefield: Political Lessons at an Arabic-themed School

by Michelle Chen on March 19 2010, 2:41PM

In 2007, New York City public schools were poised to break new cultural ground. The city established the Khalil Gibran International Academy, a comprehensive public school specializing in the Arabic language. The grade 6-12 school, the first of its…

Topics: Schools & Youth