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New Mexico politicians pleased Supreme Court upheld Indian Child Welfare Act

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Tom Joyce

(The Center Square) - The Supreme Court voted 7-2 to uphold the Indian Child Welfare Act in the Haaland v. Brackeen decision last week, and New Mexico lawmakers are happy with the court's decision.

Congress passed the law in 1978 after it was revealed that more than one-fourth of American Indian and Alaska Native children had been taken from their homes by state and private adoption agencies. The ICWA set best-practice standards for adoption proceedings and child welfare involving children of federally-recognized Tribe members. 

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-New Mexico, said the court made the right decision and the country should never return to forcibly separating Native families at such high rates.

“I stand with Native American communities in celebrating today’s Supreme Court decision upholding the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act," Heinrich said in a press release from his office. "Protecting Native American children means protecting tribal sovereignty and the future of Tribal Nations. Congress passed ICWA in 1978 to end the forced removal of Native children from their families and communities. Today’s ruling cannot undo the shameful practices of the past, but it can help us avoid them in the future as we work to meet our legal and moral obligations to Tribes and Native children.”

Proponents of the law, including the New Mexico Children, Youth, and Families Department, argue that it allows Native American parents to raise their children how they see fit and to preserve their culture.

“The Supreme Court has chosen the right side of history today. This is right for Native children, families and an important acknowledgment of the sovereignty of these Nations, CYFD Acting Secretary Teresa Casados said in a press release issued by the department. “This ruling supports the forward-looking partnership we have with our Office of Tribal Affairs. We are pleased with this decision."

New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham also agreed with the court's decision. She said that the government must respect indigenous culture. 

“Throughout history, the child welfare system harmed Native children and their families by disregarding and disrespecting their culture,” she said in a press release issued by her office. “Today, the court recognized what we already know - the critical importance of sustaining a child’s connection to their cultural identity. That’s why in 2022 the Legislature passed, and I signed the Indian Family Protection Act, codifying the federal Act in our state. By upholding the Indian Child Welfare Act, we ensure this connection is protected today and for future generations. The Supreme Court made the right decision by acknowledging the importance of this Act and its positive impact on children, families, communities, and sovereign nations.”