Child Migrants and Child Welfare: Toward a Best Interests Approach

37 Pages Posted: 25 Jul 2018 Last revised: 5 Oct 2018

See all articles by Ann Laquer Estin

Ann Laquer Estin

University of Iowa - College of Law


Protections for unaccompanied minors in the U.S. immigration system can be traced to our constitutional values of due process and equal treatment; to the parens patriae tradition and best interests principle from family law; and to our commitments under international law including the Protocol to U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. With the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008, Congress took an important step toward meeting these obligations and improving our treatment of child migrants, but there is more work to do. Federal agencies have been slow to implement the Act, and there are important gaps in the protections it provides. This paper surveys the current landscape, and argues for a stronger commitment to protecting the welfare of all children within our borders, particularly those who are separated from their parents.

Keywords: Immigration, Unaccompanied Minors, Best Interests, Child Welfare, Children’s Rights, Human Rights

JEL Classification: K36, K37

Suggested Citation

Estin, Ann Laquer, Child Migrants and Child Welfare: Toward a Best Interests Approach. Forthcoming: 17 Wash.U.Global Studies L. Rev. (2018), U Iowa Legal Studies Research Paper No. 18-13, Available at SSRN:

Ann Laquer Estin (Contact Author)

University of Iowa - College of Law ( email )

Boyd Law Building
Iowa City, IA 52242
United States
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