Attorney General Hector Balderas
ALBUQUERQUE ― Attorney General Hector Balderas announced Thursday that New Mexico joined a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general in filing a brief 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.
“It’s critical that the cultures and histories of all of New Mexicans are respected, and that children in dangerous situations can find safe places to call home,” Balderas said. “The ICWA defends our Native American children and our unique culture, and promotes the stability and security of Native American children and families.”
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 by establishing minimum Federal standards.”
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 today by Attorney General Balderas and six other Attorneys General argues that ICWA complies with the U.S. Constitution.
Joining Balderas in filing today’s brief were the Attorneys General of California, Alaska, Montana, Oregon, Utah and Washington.
A copy of the brief can be found here.