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Utah AG Joins Bipartisan Coalition in Defending Law that Protects Native American Children

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 18, 2019

UTAH ATTORNEY GENERAL SEAN D. REYES JOINS BIPARTISAN COALITION OF ATTORNEYS GENERAL IN BRIEF DEFENDING LAW THAT PROTECTS NATIVE AMERICAN CHILDREN

SALT LAKE CITY – On Monday, Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined a bipartisan coalition of 21 states in filing an amicus brief in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to defend the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) in Brakeen v. Zinke. ICWA is a 40-year-old federal law that furthers the best interests of Native American children and protects the sovereignty of Indian tribes by preserving children’s connections to their tribal heritage.
 
“The future of our Native American nations relies upon their youth learning and integrating the proud history, traditions and culture of their people within our broader society. ICWA accomplishes this while still providing needed protections to indigenous children,” said Attorney General Reyes. “I’m pleased to work in a bipartisan effort with sister states to defend this law. ICWA works in Utah. The State supports it and our First Nation friends support it. ICWA properly balances the safety and needs of children along with tribal and societal interests.”  
 
First enacted in 1978, ICWA was a response to a history of culturally insensitive and ignorant removal of Indian children from their birth families.i This resulted in the separation of Indian children from not only their families, but their tribes and heritage as well. ICWA’s purpose is to “protect the best interests of Indian children and promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families by the establishment of minimum Federal standards” to be utilized in child welfare proceedings involving Native American children.ii 

Attorney General Reyes continued, “It’s imperative Native American youth stay with their families and tribes whenever possible. There is tremendous cultural importance in this for the children and the nations. As one with heritage from a Native people, I am sensitive to this issue. The Native Hawaiian language was almost lost forever, until it was once again taught to our children in schools and at home.”
 
In this case, individual plaintiffs, along with the states of Texas, Louisiana, and Indiana, sued the U.S. Department of the Interior and its now-former Secretary Ryan Zinke to challenge the law. In October 2018, the district court for the Northern District of Texas agreed and struck down much of ICWA on constitutional grounds. The brief filed today by Attorney General Reyes and 21 other Attorneys General argues that ICWA is an appropriate exercise of Congress’s broad authority to legislate in the field of Indian affairs and does not violate the Tenth Amendment or equal protection principles. The brief also highlights ICWA’s important role in reducing disparities in child removal rates and improving the collaboration between states and tribes relating to their shared interest in improving the health and welfare of Native American children.iii
 
Attorney General Reyes joined the Attorneys General of California, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin in filing the brief. 

# # #

 
 
i. About ICWA » NICWA. (n.d.) Retrieved from https://www.nicwa.org/about-icwa/
ii. Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.bia.gov/bia/ois/dhs/icwa
iii. A copy of the brief can be found here: https://attorneygeneral.utah.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Brackeen-Amicus.pdf

Photo Credit: Romel Jacinto


Utah AG Defends Law to Protect Native American Children

January 15, 2019

Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined a bipartisan coalition of 21 state attorneys general on Monday in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to defend the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) in Brakeen v. Zinke. 

ICWA is a 40-year-old federal law that furthers the best interests of Native American children and protects the sovereignty of Indian tribes by preserving children’s connections to their tribal heritage. It was first enacted in 1943 as a response to a history of culturally insensitive and ignorant removal of Indian children from their birth families.

ICWA’s purpose is to “protect the best interests of Indian children and promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families by the establishment of minimum Federal standards” to be utilized in child welfare proceedings involving Native American children.

Attorneys general in the states of California, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin joined Attorney General Reyes in arguing that ICWA is an appropriate exercise of Congress’s broad authority to legislate in the field of Indian affairs and does not violate the Tenth Amendment or equal protection principles.

The brief highlights ICWA’s important role in reducing disparities in child removal rates and improving the collaboration between states and tribes relating to their shared interest in improving the health and welfare of Native American children.

“The future of our Native American nations relies upon their youth learning and integrating the proud history, traditions and culture of their people within our broader society. ICWA accomplishes this while still providing needed protections to indigenous children,” said Attorney General Reyes. “I’m pleased to work in a bipartisan effort with sister states to defend this law. ICWA works in Utah. The State supports it and our First Nation friends support it. ICWA properly balances the safety and needs of children along with tribal and societal interests.”

Read the full press release here: https://attorneygeneral.utah.gov/ag-protects-native-american-children/

Photo by Visit Mississippi

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