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Border & Immigration

Fronteras Extra: Turning Out The Native American Vote

Fort_Worth_federal_courthouse_LBS_TT.jpg
Leslie Boorhem-Stephenson for The Texas Tribune
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The federal courthouse in Fort Worth on Sept 5, 2018. U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor struck down the Indian Child Welfare Act Oct. 4, 2018.";

Karla Aguilar, development coordinator with the American Indians in Texas at the Spanish Colonial Missions, has been working to mobilize the Native American community ahead of Election Day.

Aguilar uses the overturning of the Indian Child Welfare Act as an example of the American Indian community coming together for a common cause. The act was ultimately ruled unconstitutional by a U.S. district judge earlier this month.

In the case, Chad and Jennifer Brackeen — a non-Native American couple — sued a state court when their adoption application for a Native American toddler they had fostered was denied. The adoption was rejected due to the Indian Child Welfare Act, a federal law passed in 1978, aimed at keeping Native American families together.

“Without having native voices participating and creating pressure around significant factors like that, it has a ripple effect across the entire country,” Aguilar said. “... We want to have conversations not only about why native children are overrepresented in the foster care and adoption system, but we need to figure out ways of being able to create pressure so we can continue to protect our families and the ability to educate our children in that cultural life way.”

Aguilar said the state is also neglecting the Native American community by not having its own commission. The Texas Indian Commission was abolished in 1989.

“They have no way of being able to route resources or create a conversation around all of the tribes that exist in San Antonio and the state of Texas that are not federally recognized,” she said.

Norma Martinez can be reached at norma@tpr.org and on Twitter @NormDog1, and Lauren Terrazas can be reached at lauren@tpr.org and on Twitter @terrazas_lauren