The United States Supreme Court has upheld a law aimed at keeping Native American foster children and adoptees with their tribes.
Justices upheld the Indian Child Welfare Act, or ICWA, in a seven to two decision released on Thursday.
Former South Dakota Senator Jim Abourezk played a significant role in its creation 45 years ago.
It was designed to address the longtime issue of Native children frequently getting separated from their families and being placed with families with no connections to their tribe or culture. A 1978 congressional report found 25%-35% of Native children were being removed from their families. Of these, 85% were being placed outside their tribe, even when relatives were available.
Critics say the system is based on race. A Texas couple challenged the law in a dispute over custody of a Navajo child.
Justice Amy Coney Barrett wrote the majority opinion. She acknowledged the issue is “complicated,” but ultimately rejected the petitioners’ challenges.
Justices Samuel Alito Jr. and Clarence Thomas dissented.