Goldwater Institute Challenges Indian Child Welfare Act

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PHOENIX—The right-winged and highly-funded Goldwater Institute, based in Phoenix, Arizona, has filed a class action lawsuit in a federal district court that seeks to dismantle the Indian Child Welfare Act.

The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) is a federal law that was passed by Congress in 1978 that seeks to keep American Indian and Alaska Native children with American Indian and Alaska Native families. Congress passed ICWA in response to the alarmingly high number of Native children being removed from their homes by both public and private non-Native agencies.

The Goldwater Institute’s lawsuit, entitled “A.D. v. Washburn,” was announced at a press conference in Phoenix that was streamed on the internet. The lawsuit alleges the core part of the ICWA is unconstitutional. It lists unnamed American Indian children living in Arizona, but off tribal lands, as plaintiffs.

Click to read lawsuit

Various speakers spoke at the press conference, including Clint Bolick, vice president of litigation at the Goldwater Institute, who stated ICWA has outlived its purpose and is unconstitutional.

“Our goal here is to end the separate and unequal treatment of children with Indian blood,” Bolick said.

“Indian children have to play by a different set of rules,” sated Darcy Olsen, director of the Goldwater Institute.

Defendants named in the lawsuit are Kevin Washburn, assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior – Indian Affairs, whose agency upholds ICWA; Sally Jewel, secretary of the Interior and Gregory McKay, director of the Arizona Department of Child Safety.

“This law has been an important feature of the legal landscape for many years now, and we firmly believe that the protection of the best interests of Indian children continues to be important today,” Washburn said in statement released on Tuesday afternoon.

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