In Children’s Best Interest: Advancing a Fundamental Standard for the Treatment of Immigrant Children

February 18, 2020

Senior Advocate for Women and Girls Devon Cone spoke at American University ‘s Annual Latino Public Affairs Forum 2020 on protection issues surrounding unaccompanied children.

For over a century, the best interests standard has served as the cornerstone of a robust legal architecture erected by every state in the U.S. to safeguard the well-being of children, regardless of their immigration status. A global consensus, embodied in the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), has also embraced the best interests standard as the fundamental framework to guide decision-making involving children. As a signatory to the CRC, which this year marks its thirtieth anniversary as the most widely ratified treaty in recent history, the U.S. government has pledged not to act in a manner that undermines the best interests principle. And yet, despite these longstanding commitments, our country is witnessing a systematic assault on the rights of migrant children as the Trump administration works to rollback hard-fought progress in extending the best interests standard into immigration law and practice.

Together with the American University Washington College of Law (WCL) and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), CLALS is hosting a two-day symposium focused on defending and reinforcing the best interests principle as the central framework for decision-making involving immigrant children. In addition to bringing to the fore of the public discussion the U.S. government’s failures to provide immigrant children with treatment consistent with standards widely accepted under domestic law and international norms, the symposium served as a forum for generating concrete recommendations for implementing the best interests standard in the immigration context. The full program is available here, and a comprehensive report is forthcoming.