Attorney General Ken Paxton today commended a U.S. District Court decision striking down the unconstitutional and discriminatory Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). Last October, the attorney general, on behalf of Texas, Indiana, and Louisiana, filed a lawsuit alongside a Texas foster family challenging the constitutionality of ICWA, which imposes race-based restrictions on the adoption of Indian children and impedes the ability of Texas and other states to protect them from harm.
“Today’s ruling protects the best interest of Texas children,” Attorney General Paxton said. “ICWA coerces state agencies and courts to carry out unconstitutional and illegal federal policy, and decide custody based on race.”
The Texas Family Code provides that all cases of custody and adoption must focus on the best interest of the child, and prohibits racial discrimination in child custody cases. However, ICWA – which Congress created – mandates different rules for custody and adoption cases involving children from federally recognized Native American tribes that could compel a placement that is directly against the best interest of the child.
A non-Native American Texas married couple is the backdrop to Attorney General Paxton’s lawsuit. The family wanted to adopt a two-year-old Native American child they have fostered since he was ten months old. The child’s biological parents and grandmother supported the adoption. And the court-appointed, neutral guardian ad litem believed placement with the foster family was in the child’s best interest. But a state court denied the adoption petition because it believed ICWA required a different outcome solely because of the child’s race: to live with an unrelated Native American family with whom he had no previous connection. After an appeal, the parties settled and the Texas couple adopted the child. The case also involved several other couples and an adult who wanted to adopt foster children but could not because of ICWA.
Last night, the court agreed with Texas and ruled to protect future children on their path to an adoptive home by holding that ICWA and implementing regulations violated several provisions of the constitution and federal law. The court observed that “[t]his case arises because three children, in need of foster and adoptive placement, fortunately found loving adoptive parents who seek to provide for them. Because of certain provisions of a federal law, however, these three children have been threatened with removal from, in some cases, the only family they know, to be placed in another state with strangers.”
“I applaud the court for ruling this egregious law unconstitutional on multiple grounds, and I commend Attorney General Paxton for his leadership in this fight,” said Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry. “Together, we will continue to protect the rule of law and defend our states’ citizens from federal overreach.”
To date, Attorney General Paxton has achieved a final judgment or injunction in 75 percent of his cases against the federal government that are at or near completion.