On October 4, 2018, U.S. District Court Judge Reed O’Connor in the Northern District of Texas declared the Indian Child Welfare Act unconstitutional. This decision has the potential to undermine not just ICWA, but the very nature of tribes as sovereigns, perhaps ushering in the most recent effort to terminate Indian tribes.
ICWA is a 40-year old remedial statute enacted in response to the alarmingly high number of Indian children being removed from their homes and adopted by non-Indian families. The Indian Adoption Project was part of a larger United States policy of assimilation seeking to terminate tribes. Historically, the federal government and states have cyclically introduced laws and policies to assimilate, undermine and terminate tribes and therefore children and families. As governments, tribes have withstood centuries of torment, neglect, abuse, degradation, attempted assimilation and termination. Tribes and their citizens have survived and thrived. As tribal governments and citizens, Indian people have engaged in persistent resistance to any attempt to extinguish or silence them. Today, we are again fighting to exercise our sovereign right to self-governance and to protect our children.
Tribes and states alike rely on ICWA to provide the necessary framework to navigate otherwise difficult jurisdictional questions that run the potential of creating gaps in the child welfare safety net.
The decision from Judge O’Connor is unprecedented and contrary to Congressional intent, the Constitution and decades of well-established Indian law.
Click here to read the CTFC press release.
Click here to read the opinion.
“Those of us who were raised in Indian Country, those of us who raise our children on the reservations, those of us who know Indian families – we know that ICWA protects our children. This targeted and well-financed attack on ICWA only reminds tribes of the long and tortured history we have endured in the United States,” Robert Smith, chairman of the California Tribal Families Coalition and the Pala Band of Mission Indians.
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