December 16, 2019

Harris, Lawmakers File Amicus Brief Supporting the Indian Child Welfare Act

 Amicus brief makes the case for the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act and Congress’s authority—and trust responsibility—to legislate for the benefit of Indian Tribes

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) on Friday joined Senators Tom Udall (D-NM) and John Hoeven (R-ND), along with 22 senators and 52 representatives, in filing an amicus brief in federal court defending the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). The bipartisan and bicameral brief was filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit as the court re-opens its August ruling that affirmed ICWA’s constitutionality in Brackeen v. Bernhardt.

“The Indian Child Welfare Act has protected Native American children and kept them connected with their families and communities for over 40 years,” said Senator Harris. “It is vital that the Fifth Circuit upholds the constitutionality of ICWA– we must support tribes as they fight to protect Native American children.”

The amicus brief urges the Fifth Circuit to uphold the court’s previous decision affirming the constitutionality of IWCA. The decision the Fifth Circuit issued in August reversed a ruling from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas which wrongly struck down ICWA as unconstitutional.

Congress passed ICWA in 1978 after receiving testimony that 25 to 35 percent of American Indian and Alaska Native children were removed from their homes by state and private adoption agencies. ICWA sets best-practice standards for child welfare and adoption proceedings involving children who are members of a federally-recognized Tribe or are eligible for membership in a federally-recognized Tribe. Over four decades, the law has become the “gold standard” for child welfare policy and keeping Native children connected to their communities and cultures.  

The full text of the amicus brief, along with the full list of signatories, is available HERE.

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