C.J. Jr. was born in Ohio, and ordinarily you wouldn’t be able to distinguish him from any other Ohio child. His father lives in Ohio, as did his mother, until her recent death. His foster parents live in Ohio, and he’s lived with them for most of his life. So you might think that he’d stay there, and maybe be adopted by his foster parents, as often happens.
But there’s just one problem: C.J. Jr. is—based solely on the DNA in his blood—eligible for membership in the Gila River Indian Community. And that means that his case is governed by the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), a federal law that overrides state child welfare laws and imposes race-based rules that make it harder to protect Native American kids from abuse or neglect or to find them the safe, loving adoptive homes that they need. And it gets worse: under ICWA, children can be uprooted from their foster families and exiled to other states—as happened in the recent case of “Lexi” and almost happened in the recent A.L.M. case—to live with strangers, based solely on their race.
C.J. Jr. has no political affiliation with the tribe. How could he? He’s only five years old (he will be six in July). And he doesn’t have any cultural affiliation with a tribe, or speak a tribal language, and he’s never been to the Gila River reservation Arizona. He lives almost two thousand miles away from Arizona, and has never visited the state. But thanks to his genes, officials with the Gila River tribe decided they wanted C.J. Jr.—so they got a court order from their own tribal court ordering that C.J. Jr. be put on a plane and sent to Arizona to live on the reservation with strangers he’s never met, simply because he’s of the same race. Never mind that the tribal court had no jurisdiction—it claimed jurisdiction based on his genetics—and invoked its ICWA powers to command state officials to comply.
Joined by his court-appointed lawyer and representatives from the Ohio Attorney General’s office, we went to court to defend this child against this disgraceful example of racial discrimination. And this week, the Ohio Court of Appeals ruled in favor of C.J. Jr., and rejected the tribe’s shocking abuse of authority.
We’re proud of our Equal Protection for Indian Children project and the progress we’ve made in challenging the race-based deprivation of protection that is imposed on kids through ICWA. And we won’t rest until all of these children receive the same legal protections that their peers of other races receive.
You can read more about the Court’s decision in a new article on our In Defense of Liberty blog.
Liberty in the News This Week
This week, the U.S. House narrowly failed to advance federal legislation to protect the right of terminally ill patients to try investigational medicines that have not yet received full approval from the FDA. Unfortunately, scare tactics, falsehoods, and innuendo won the day, but the fight to protect terminally ill patients continues. Read more in a statement from Goldwater Institute president Victor Riches.
Cities across the nation continue to violate the First Amendment and individuals’ property rights. The Goldwater Institute is stepping up to ensure that the government will not interfere with people’s freedom of speech. Read more in an article by Goldwater Institute staff attorney Adi Dynar.
A new paper from the Pelican Institute for Public Policy and the Goldwater Institute urges a more practical approach to occupational licensing requirements to remove barriers to jobs and opportunity for everyone in Louisiana. In the paper, Goldwater Institute Director of National Litigation Jon Riches examines the burdens of regulations and points to the Right to Earn a Living Act, already law in Arizona, as a solution.