WASHINGTON, June 15 (AP) — The Supreme Court on Thursday preserved the system that prioritizes Native American families in the foster care and adoption process for Native children, rejecting a broad attack from some Republican-led states and white families that they Think it’s based on race.
The court preserved the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978, which was enacted to address concerns that Aboriginal children were separated from their families and often placed with non-Aboriginal families.
Tribal leaders have backed the law as a means to protect their families, traditions and culture, and have warned that broad rulings against tribes could erode their ability to govern themselves.
“The issue is complex,” Justice Amy Coney Barrett wrote, with seven in the majority, including three liberals and four of the six conservatives on the court, but ” The bottom line is that we reject all petitioners’ challenges to the regulations.”
Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissented, writing each that Congress has no authority to interfere with foster care placements and adoptions, usually the provinces of the states. Alito wrote that the decision “compromised the rights of these children.”
But Judge Neil Gorsuch, a Colorado native who has become a champion of Indigenous rights since joining the court in 2017, wrote in a separate opinion that the decision “guarantees the ability of tribal members to raise their children free from interference by state authorities.” , other external parties”.
Tribal leaders involved in the case called the result a major victory for the tribe and Aboriginal children.
“We hope this decision will quell the political attacks aimed at undermining tribal sovereignty and creating instability in Indian law throughout India that have gone on for far too long,” Cherokee Nation chief Chuck Hoskin, Jr., Morongo Band Indian Nation President Charles Martin, Oneida Nation President Tehash Hill and Quinault Indian Nation President Guy Kapperman said in a joint statement from the Mission.
President Joe Biden’s administration defended the law in the high court, noting that he supported the law 45 years ago when he was a Democratic senator from Delaware.
“Our nation’s painful history hangs over today’s decisions. In the not-too-distant past, Indigenous children were stolen from the arms of those who loved them,” Biden said in a statement.
Congress passed the law in response to the alarming rate at which public and private agencies are removing Native American and Alaska Native children from their homes.
States are required by law to notify tribes and seek placement with the child’s extended family, members of the child’s tribe, or other Native American families.
Three white families, Texas and a handful of other states claimed the law was unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause because it was based on race. They also argue that it puts the interests of tribes above children and improperly allows the federal government too much power over adoption and foster care placements, which are usually controlled by states.
The lead plaintiffs in the Supreme Court case — Chad and Jennifer Bragin of Fort Worth, Texas — after a lengthy legal battle with the Navajo Nation, one of the two largest Native American tribes in the Southwest, Adopted a Native American child. The Brackeens are trying to adopt the boy’s 5-year-old half-sister, known in court documents as YRJ, who has lived with them since childhood. The Navajo Nation opposes adoption.
In debates last fall, several conservative justices raised concerns about at least one aspect of the law that prioritizes Indigenous parents, even if they are from a different tribe than the children they seek to adopt or foster.
That includes Judge Brett Kavanaugh, who voted in favor of the tribe on Thursday. But Kavanaugh added a cautionary note to another opinion, focusing on local foster care and foster parent preferences.
“In my view, equal protection issues are serious,” Kavanaugh wrote, commenting that the race of prospective parents and children could be used to deny foster care or adoption, “even if placement is determined to be the child’s best interest. .”
The Supreme Court addressed the issue by ruling that neither the state of Texas nor the parents had the legal standing to make that argument in this case.
The justices said Brackeens and others could make those arguments in state court proceedings.
Matthew McGill, who represented Brackeens in the Supreme Court, said he would file a racial discrimination lawsuit in state court.
“Our main concern is what today’s decision means for little girl YRJ – now five – who has been part of the Brackeen family for almost her entire life.
The court failed to address our core claim that ICWA does not allow discrimination against Native American children and families who wish to adopt them, saying it must be brought to state court,” McGill said in a statement.
All of the children who have been involved in the current case are registered or likely to be registered as Navajo, Cherokee, Ojibwe White Earth Band and Isleta del Sur Pueblo. Some adoptions have been completed, while others are still being challenged.
More than three-quarters of the country’s 574 federally recognized tribes and nearly two dozen state attorneys general of all political stripes called on the high court to uphold the law.
The Supreme Court has previously heard cases on the Indian Child Welfare Act twice, in 1989 and 2013, which aroused strong emotions.
Prior to the enactment of the Indian Child Welfare Act, between 25 and 35 percent of Native American children were removed from their homes and placed with adoptive families, foster care, or institutions. Most were placed with white families or boarding schools in an attempt to assimilate them. (Associated Press)
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