Conservative group disputes legality of Indian Child Welfare Act

YouTube: Equal Protection for Indian Children (EPIC) Press Conference

The conservative Goldwater Institute of Arizona filed a class action lawsuit on Tuesday to challenge the legality of the Indian Child Welfare Act.

Congress passed ICWA in 1978 to address alarming rates of Indian children being taken from their tribal communities. But the group claims the law is racist because no other group of children are subjected to the same treatment in adoption, foster care and other proceedings.

"We want federal and state laws to be changed to give abused, neglected or abandoned Native American children the same protections that are given to all other American children: the right to be placed in a safe home based on their best interests, not based on their race," Darcy Olsen, the president of the Goldwater Institute, said in a press release.

Speakers at a press conference in Phoenix made repeated reference to blood quantum, implying that children who may not appear to be Indian are not actually Indian. They also said Congress does not have the authority to legislate in the area of Indian affairs, arguing that ICWA is illegal because it applies to people based solely on their race.

The group hopes the lawsuit will lead to the invalidation of ICWA, a step that the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, an ICWA case from 2013. The complaint also challenges new ICWA guidelines and regulations issued by the Bureau of Indian Affairs that were drafted to strengthen compliance wit the law.

“While we have not yet reviewed the filing, we understand that a lawsuit challenging ICWA was filed yesterday. In matters in litigation, we will speak primarily through our briefs in court, but I want to assure the public that we will defend the Indian Child Welfare Act,” Assistant Secretary Kevin Washburn, the head of the BIA, said in a statement. “Nearly 40 years ago, Congress determined that Indian children were being treated unfairly in the context of foster care and adoption. Congress determined that ‘an alarmingly high percentage of [Indian] children’ were subjected to ‘unwarranted’ removal from their homes and that a federal law was needed to protect Indian children. This law has been an important feature of the legal landscape for many years now and we firmly believe that the protection of the best interests of Indian children continues to be important today.”

The lawsuit was accompanied by a website and a report that looked into various instances of child abuse and neglect. The group claims those cases can be traced to the application of ICWA.

Get the Story:
War of Words: ICWA Faces Multiple Assaults From Adoption Industry (Indian Country Today 7/8)
(The Oklahoman 7/8)
Arizona think tank challenges US Indian Child Welfare Act (Capitol Media Service 7/8)
Lawsuit challenges Native American adoption law (The Arizona Republic 7/8)
Arizona think tank challenges US Indian Child Welfare Act (AP 7/8)
Arizona Lawsuit Challenges Indian Child Welfare Act (KJZZ 7/7)

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