Wyoming ACLU Urges SCOTUS to Uphold the Indian Child Welfare Act
The American Civil Liberties Union of Wyoming has joined the national ACLU and multiple ACLU state affiliates in urging the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act.
The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) establishes basic requirements to protect Native American children from continued forced removal from their families, tribes, and tribal culture.
The Supreme Court will begin hearing oral arguments in Brackeen v Haaland on Nov. 9, 2022.
This case began back in 2018 when a federal district court in Texas ruled that the ICWA is unconstitutional.
The case made its way to the 5th Circuit Court, which originally ruled that the ICWA was constitutional, before reviewing the case and saying that certain portions of the law violated the Fifth and 10th amendments of the constitution.
The Supreme Court justices agreed to hear the case in February of this year in order to overturn the 5th Circuit Court ruling.
The ICWA was passed in 1978 to address the forcible removal of Native American children from their homes by child welfare agencies and their placement into non-Native homes and requires courts to keep Native American families together.
According to two studies by the American Association of Indian Affairs in 1969 and 1974, 25-35% of all Native American children had been separated from their families and placed in foster homes, adoptive homes, or institutions, and 90% of those placements were in non-Indian homes.
Stephanie Amiotte, ACLU of Wyoming legal director and enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, said in the release:
"Throughout history, the United States government has enacted countless policies to steal Indigenous children from their homes and to erase their identities," Amiotee said. "The explicit goal of these policies was, and continues to be, the complete erasure of Indigenous people. If the Indian Child Welfare Act is overturned, tribes will again be stripped of their right to keep their families together. This is a tragedy as we know that having connection to our cultures, languages, and identities is in the best interest of Native children."
The brief filed by the ACLU argues that the Indian Child Welfare Act is constitutional because the law protects the best interests of Native American children and promotes the stability and security of Native American Tribes.
Kathleen Hartnett, a partner with Cooley LLP, the law firm representing the ACLU in this case, said in the release:
"We are honored to represent the ACLU in showing how the challenged provisions of the critical federal law protecting Native children are plainly constitutional," Hartnett said. "Native families have a right to stay together, care for their children and preserve tribal culture by ensuring access to their cultural identity, language, and heritage."
The brief was filed in conjunction with the ACLU of Northern California, ACLU of Alaska, ACLU of Arizona, ACLU of Maine, ACLU of Montana, ACLU of Nebraska, ACLU of New Mexico, ACLU of Oklahoma, ACLU of South Dakota, ACLU of North Dakota, ACLU of Texas, ACLU of Utah, and ACLU of Washington.