Attorney General Becerra Leads Bipartisan Coalition of Attorneys General to Protect Native American Children

Tuesday, May 29, 2018
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

Attorneys General file amicus brief to defend federal Indian Child Welfare Act  

SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, leading a bipartisan coalition of Attorneys General, filed an amicus brief late last week in Brakeen et. al. v. Zinke to defend the federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). ICWA sets specific child welfare rules designed to ensure that cases regarding abuse, neglect and adoption involving Native American children are handled in a culturally appropriate manner.

“California is home to the nation’s largest Native American population, and the California Department of Justice is dedicated to preserving Native American heritage in every way,” said Attorney General Becerra. “ICWA is an important law that protects Native American children and allows them to remain connected to their community. I will continue fighting to defend ICWA.”

First enacted in 1978, ICWA was a response to a history of culturally biased, and at times, purposefully abusive placement of Indian children with non-Indian families. This resulted in the separation of Indian children from their families, tribes, and heritage. 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.” The federal law is to be utilized in child welfare proceedings involving Native American children.

In the last five years, several ideologically conservative legal entities have contested ICWA, wrongly arguing that it is unconstitutional because it “burdens” native children more than their non-native counterparts. Individual plaintiffs, along with the states of Texas, Louisiana, and Indiana, have sued the U.S. Department of the Interior and its Secretary Ryan Zinke to challenge the law. The brief filed by Attorney General Becerra and six other Attorneys General argues that ICWA complies with the U.S. Constitution.

In this brief, California is joined by the following states: Alaska, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, and Washington.

Attorney General Becerra is committed to protecting Native American heritage and the rights of Native Americans in California. California adopted legislation mirroring the federal ICWA in 2006, a set of laws commonly referred to as Cal-ICWA. In March 2017, Attorney General Becerra received a set of recommendations from California tribal leaders designed to further ICWA implementation in California.

A copy of the brief is attached to the press release at https://oag.ca.gov/media/news.

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