Washington Post on Brackeen v. Bernhardt [ICWA]

Here.

In the 40 years since Congress enacted the Indian Child Welfare Act, the law has been criticized in legal challenges that have climbed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. But the ICWA, as the act is known, has always prevailed.

Now its constitutionality is being questioned again. On Thursday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit agreed to rehear a lawsuit filed by a non-Native American couple in Texas claiming the ICWA discriminates on the basis of race and infringes on states’ rights.

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Kathryn Fort, a Michigan State law professor and one of the nation’s foremost ICWA experts, told The Washington Post she thinks there are more important battles to wage on behalf of children.

“Given that a federal judge this week fined Texas $50,000 a day until they fix their broken child welfare system,” Fort said, “it seems beyond the pale for them to try to continue to strike down a law that is designed to help children and families in that very system heal and reunify.”

Fifth Circuit Grants En Banc Review of Brackeen v. Bernhardt [ICWA]

Here

Tribal Intervenor Statement here:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

November 7, 2019

Contact: Tania Mercado tmercado@skdknick.com

Native American Tribes Continue to Stand with Indian Children and Families Following Court Decision to Rehear Fifth Circuit Case

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin, Jr., Morongo Band of Mission Indians Chairman Robert Martin, Oneida Nation Chairman Tehassi Hill and Quinault Indian Nation President Fawn Sharp issued the following statement in response to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decision to rehear a challenge to the Indian Child Welfare Act en banc:

“We never want to go back to the days when Indian children were ripped away from their families and stripped of their heritage. We continue to believe that the Fifth Circuit decision affirming the constitutionality of ICWA was the right decision. While it is unfortunate that the attacks on this critical law continue, we are confident that the court will once again uphold the constitutionality of ICWA, as courts have repeatedly done over the past 40 years. ICWA provides a process for determining the best interests of Indian children in the adoption and foster care systems, which is why it is overwhelmingly supported across the political spectrum. We remain devoted in our efforts to defend ICWA because our number one priority remains fighting for the wellbeing, health and safety of children and families.”

In 2017, individual plaintiffs Chad and Jennifer Brackeen, a couple from Texas, along with the state attorneys general in Texas, Louisiana, and Indiana, sued the U.S. Department of the Interior and its now-former Secretary Ryan Zinke to challenge ICWA. The Morongo, Quinault, Oneida and Cherokee tribes intervened as defendants in the case Brackeen v. Bernhardt.

In October 2018, a federal judge in the Northern District of Texas struck down much of ICWA. Defendants appealed the lower court’s decision and asked the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse the decision. Last December, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals granted a stay requested by the defendants, putting a hold on the ruling. In March 2019, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments from plaintiffs and defendants in the Brackeen case.

On August 9, 2019, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reaffirmed that the Indian Child Welfare Act is constitutional and serves the best interests of children and families. On October 1, 2019, plaintiffs in Brackeen v. Bernhardt chose to continue their attacks on Indian children and tribal families and requested an en banc rehearing before the Fifth Circuit.

There is broad, bipartisan support against this misguided attack on a law that is crucial for protecting the well-being of Indian children and Indian sovereignty. A total of 21 attorneys general, representing a broad range of states, filed an amicus brief in support of the defendants, arguing that ICWA is an appropriate exercise of Congress’s authority to legislate in the field of Indian affairs and does not violate the Tenth Amendment or equal protection laws. The Trump administration has also reiterated its support for ICWA, tribal sovereignty and the safety of Indian children.

An additional 325 tribes, 57 tribal organizations, members of Congress, Indian law and constitutional law scholars, and 30 leading child welfare organizations have also filed friend-of-the-court briefs in support of the defendants.

For additional information on this case and the Indian Child Welfare Act please visit: http://www.ProtectIndianKids.com.

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Fifth Circuit: ICWA is Constitutional on All Counts

Here.

The Fifth Circuit overturned the Northern District of Texas today with strong language supporting ICWA. The Court found that the plaintiffs did have standing, but found against them on all other counts. There is a dissent forthcoming from Judge Owens.

Equal Protection:

We begin by determining whether ICWA’s definition of “Indian child” is a race-based or political classification and, consequently, which level of scrutiny applies. The district court concluded that ICWA’s “Indian Child” definition was a race-based classification. We conclude that this was error.

We disagree with the district court’s reasoning and conclude that Mancari controls here. As to the district court’s first distinction, Mancari’s holding does not rise or fall with the geographical location of the Indians receiving “special treatment.”

Anti-Commandeering:

We examine the constitutionality of the challenged provisions of ICWA below and conclude that they preempt conflicting state law and do not violate the anticommandeering doctrine.

Non-Delegation:

We find this argument unpersuasive. It is well established that tribes have “sovereignty over both their members and their territory.” See Mazurie, 419 U.S. at 557 (emphasis added)”

For a tribe to exercise its authority to determine tribal membership and to regulate domestic relations among its members, it must necessarily be able to regulate all Indian children, irrespective of their location.

Authority to Issue Regulations

Here, section 1952’s text is substantially similar to the language in Mourning, and the Final Rule’s binding standards for Indian child custody proceedings are reasonably related to ICWA’s purpose of establishing minimum federal standards in child custody proceedings involving Indian children. See 25 U.S.C. § 1902. Thus, the Final Rule is a reasonable exercise of the broad authority granted to the BIA by Congress in ICWA section 1952.

Conclusion:

For these reasons, we conclude that Plaintiffs had standing to bring all claims and that ICWA and the Final Rule are constitutional because they are based on a political classification that is rationally related to the fulfillment of Congress’s unique obligation toward Indians; ICWA preempts conflicting state laws and does not violate the Tenth Amendment anticommandeering doctrine; and ICWA and the Final Rule do not violate the nondelegation doctrine. We also conclude that the Final Rule implementing the ICWA is valid because the ICWA is constitutional, the BIA did not exceed its authority when it issued the Final Rule, and the agency’s interpretation of ICWA section 1915 is reasonable.

Time Magazine on ICWA

Here

The first four paragraphs of the story:

Each time Elisia Manuel sees her daughter Precious rehearsing traditional basket dancing and humming tribal songs around their home in Casa Grande, Arizona, she’s overwhelmed with emotion. “It’s beautiful to witness,” the mother of three says. “She’s part of the community.”

This wasn’t always guaranteed. Elisia and her husband Tecumseh, who is a member of the Gila River Indian Community, became foster parents in 2012 after learning about the great need for Native American foster families in Arizona. They couldn’t have biological children of their own and felt a deep calling to help other families, Elisia says.

Within two years, the couple had taken in two foster children and adopted three more. Their two adopted sons are biological brothers, and each came to the Manuels when they were just days old.

Their daughter, Precious, also needed to leave her home as a baby but was going to be placed with a non-Native family at first. “She wouldn’t have received any education about her culture,” Elisia says. She knows what that would be like. Elisia’s family is Hispanic and has Apache roots, but, her grandmother was adopted and raised away from her biological family, so Elisia did not grow up learning about Apache culture and is not an enrolled tribal member.

Intercept Article on ICWA and the Brackeen Case

Here

“Babies don’t get born and run down to the citizenship office and file a petition,” said Matthew Fletcher, director of the Indigenous Law and Policy Center at Michigan State University. When his own child was born, he and his partner took a year to register him as a tribal member, in part because he was eligible for more than one tribal nation. “To say that somehow this kid hasn’t been enrolled yet and therefore doesn’t have a political relationship is really quite disingenuous.”

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Reflecting on the rhetoric used by ICWA opponents like Sandefur, Nicole Adams, a spokesperson for Partnership for Native Children, pointed to the institutions that pushed for the use of boarding schools and adoption for decades before ICWA’s passage. “They were led by very well-intentioned Christian coalitions purporting that Indian children needed to be saved, and they were just the ones to do it. If you look at the rhetoric being put out by some of ICWA’s most staunch opponents, it is eerily and frighteningly similar.”

As Expected, Criminal Defendant Cites Brackeen to Attack Major Crimes Act

Here is the opening brief in United States v. Jim (10th Cir.):

Jim Opening Brief

An excerpt:

There is reason to believe that the Supreme Court may be open to revisiting its holding in Antelope, and may soon have the opportunity to cast doubt on the continued vitality of Antelope. In a case unrelated to the Major Crimes Act, the Court struck down a statute that created a voting qualification that, it said, used native Hawai’ian ancestry as “a proxy for race.” Rice v. Cayetano, 528 U.S. 495, 519-20 (2000). Most recently, and after Mr. Jim’s sentencing hearing in this case, a federal district court struck down the Indian Child Welfare Act as unconstitutional because of the race-based restrictions that it places on foster care and adoption. See Brackeen v. Zinke, 338 F. Supp. 3d 514 (N.D. Tex. 2018). The court focused on the fact that the statute based Indian classification on blood, and did not “rely on actual tribal membership,” to distinguish Mancari. Id. at 533. As is clear from the appellate docket in the Fifth Circuit, Case No. 18-11479, the district court’s ruling has generated significant interest among law makers, tribal governments, non-profits, and Indian law scholars, all of whom have submitted amicus briefs. The Fifth Circuit heard oral arguments in the case on March 13 of this year. See Docket entry of March 13, 2019, Brackeen v. Barnhard, app. pending, Case No. 18-11479 (5th Cir.); Andrew Westney, “Texas AG Lauds Child Welfare Ruling, but Tribes Cry Foul,” Law360 (March 4, 2019), at https://www.law360.com/articles/1134688. Ultimately, if the district court’s decision is preserved by the Supreme Court, that would significantly undermine Antelope and open the Major Crimes Act to challenge on these grounds.