In this article, the case law of the European Court of Human Rights on children's family reunion is examined. The argument is that the Court's case law is necessarily inconsistent. This is so in part as a consequence of the structure of international legal argument, and partly as a consequence of the seeming normative conflict about the legitimacy of migration control. On both points, the Court is torn between two equally legitimate and equally untenable extremes, which forces the Court to take a centrist position and to acknowledge both the legitimacy and the untenable nature of any position. The main part of the article analyses how this takes shape in the legal technicalities in the judgements under review. © 2009 Martinus Nijhoff Publishers.