SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4)- Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, along with 26 other attorneys general from other states, filed an amicus brief in support of upholding protections guaranteed under the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).

The brief was filed before the U.S. Supreme Court in two cases, Haaland v. Brackeen and Cherokee Nation v. Brackeen, and it highlights the states’ interest in protecting children, including Native American children, in state child-custody proceedings.

Congress enacted the ICWA in 1978 in response to state and private parties initiating state child-custody proceedings that removed Native American children from the custody of their parents — often without good cause — and placing them in the custody of non-tribal adoptive and foster homes.

The removal of Native American children from their tribal areas posed an existential threat to the continuity and vitality of tribal communities. Congress established minimum federal standards governing the removal of Native American children from their families. 

In the amicus brief, the coalition asserts that:  

• ICWA is a critical tool for protecting Native American families and tribes, and fostering state-tribal collaboration.

• The court of appeals incorrectly concluded that several of ICWA’s provisions violate the anti-commandeering doctrine.

• ICWA’s preferences for the placement of Native American children with other Native American families and foster homes do not violate equal protection.

“Today, the State of Utah joins with 25 other states in urging the Supreme Court to uphold the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act,” said Solicitor General Melissa A. Holyoak. “ICWA is a valid exercise of Congressional power and serves an important role in fostering a good relationship between the State and Indian Tribes.”

Holyoak said the ICWA ensured that Native American children would remain connected to their families and tribes while in foster care and even after adoption. The ICWA will continue to work with tribal partners to promote the interests of Utah’s Native American children.

In filing the amicus brief, Reyes joins the attorneys general of California, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia.

ICWA’s provisions safeguard the rights of Native American children, parents, and tribes in state child-custody proceedings while seeking to promote the placement of Native American children with members of their extended families or with other tribal homes.