WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaiʻi), chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), vice chairman of the Committee, and U.S. Representatives Sharice Davids (D-Kansas) and Tom Cole (R-Oklahoma), co-chairs of the Congressional Native American Caucus, led a bipartisan, bicameral group of 87 members of Congress in filing an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court defending the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) in the pending case, Haaland v. Brackeen.
Congress enacted ICWA in 1978 to protect the best interests of Indian children and promote the stability and security of Indian families and Tribes. ICWA sets standards and requirements to prevent the unwarranted removal of Indian children from their families and Tribal communities in child welfare and adoption proceedings.
In 2019, over 70 members of Congress filed a bipartisan, bicameral brief supporting ICWA in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. But in an April 2021 decision, the Fifth Circuit upheld certain sections of ICWA and flagged constitutional concerns about others, prompting appeals on both sides. The U.S. Supreme Court granted petitions to review the Fifth Circuit’s decision from the U.S. Department of Justice, intervening Tribes, Texas, and individual plaintiffs in Haaland v. Brackeen and will hear the case on November 9, 2022.
“The Indian Child Welfare Act continues to protect the best interests of Indian children, serving as a powerful check on the loss of Tribal language, identity, and cultures through the removal of Native children from their families and communities and placement in non-Indian homes,” said Chairman Brian Schatz. “Our amicus brief reaffirms Congress’ constitutional authority to legislate on Indian affairs, honors the federal government’s trust responsibility to Indian Tribes by urging the Court to uphold ICWA, and protects Indian children, families, and communities.”
“The Indian Child Welfare Act remains among the most significant pieces of Indian legislation ever enacted to protect Native children and preserve the integrity of Native culture and identity,” said Vice Chairman Lisa Murkowski. “I am proud to join this bipartisan group of Congressional leaders on this amicus brief to urge the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold ICWA and reaffirm Congress’ plenary power to legislate on Indian Affairs.”
“The Indian Child Welfare Act was enacted to address the crisis of Native children being separated from their families, communities, and cultures. For more than 40 years, Congress has been united in support of the constitutionality of ICWA, which is known across the country as the gold standard for child welfare policies and practices. As Co-Chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus and a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation, I am proud to once again join this group of bipartisan Congressional leaders on this amicus brief to reaffirm the constitutionality of ICWA,” said U.S. Representative Sharice Davids (D-KS).
“Since 1978, the Indian Child Welfare Act has protected vulnerable children from being taken from their tribal communities and culture during custody or guardianship proceedings,” said Congressman Tom Cole, Co-Chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus and member of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma. “I am proud to join with my colleagues from both chambers of Congress in support of preserving and strengthening ICWA’s ability to protect native children.”