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105th Congress Report
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
2d Session 105-594
GUADALUPE-HIDALGO TREATY LAND CLAIMS ACT OF 1998
June 23, 1998.--Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on the
State of the Union and ordered to be printed
Mr. Young of Alaska, from the Committee on Resources, submitted the
R E P O R T
[To accompany H.R. 2538]
[Including cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office]
The Committee on Resources, to whom was referred the bill
(H.R. 2538) to establish a Presidential commission to determine
the validity of certain land claims arising out of the Treaty
of Guadalupe-Hidalgo of 1848 involving the descendants of
persons who were Mexican citizens at the time of the Treaty,
having considered the same, report favorably thereon with an
amendment and recommend that the bill as amended do pass.
The amendment is as follows:
Strike out all after the enacting clause and insert in lieu
thereof the following:
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE; TABLE OF CONTENTS.
(a) Short Title.--This Act may be cited as the ``Guadalupe-Hidalgo
Treaty Land Claims Act of 1998''.
(b) Table of Contents.--The table of contents of this Act is as
Sec. 1. Short title; table of contents.
Sec. 2. Definitions and findings.
Sec. 3. Establishment and membership of Commission.
Sec. 4. Examination of land claims.
Sec. 5. Community Land Grant Study Center.
Sec. 6. Miscellaneous powers of Commission.
Sec. 7. Report.
Sec. 8. Termination.
Sec. 9. Authorization of appropriations.
SEC. 2. DEFINITIONS AND FINDINGS.
(a) Definitions.--For purposes of this Act:
(1) Commission.--The term ``Commission'' means the Guadalupe-
Hidalgo Treaty Land Claims Commission established under section
(2) Treaty of guadalupe-hidalgo.--The term ``Treaty of
Guadalupe-Hidalgo'' means the Treaty of Peace, Friendship,
Limits, and Settlement (Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo), between
the United States and the Republic of Mexico, signed February
2, 1848 (TS 207; 9 Bevans 791).
(3) Eligible descendant.--The term ``eligible descendant''
means a descendant of a person who--
(A) was a Mexican citizen before the Treaty of
(B) was a member of a community land grant; and
(C) became a United States citizen within ten years
after the effective date of the Treaty of Guadalupe-
Hidalgo, May 30, 1848, pursuant to the terms of the
(4) Community land grant.--The term ``community land grant''
means a village, town, settlement, or pueblo consisting of land
held in common (accompanied by lesser private allotments) by
three or more families under a grant from the King of Spain (or
his representative) before the effective date of the Treaty of
Cordova, August 24, 1821, or from the authorities of the
Republic of Mexico before May 30, 1848, in what became the
State of New Mexico, regardless of the original character of
(5) Reconstituted.--The term ``reconstituted'', with regard
to a valid community land grant, means restoration to full
status as a municipality with rights properly belonging to a
municipality under State law and the right of local self-
(b) Findings.--Congress finds the following:
(1) New Mexico has a unique history regarding the acquisition
of ownership of land as a result of the substantial number of
Spanish and Mexican land grants that were an integral part of
the colonization and growth of New Mexico before the United
States acquired the area in the Treaty of Guadalupe- Hidalgo.
(2) Various provisions of the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo
have not yet been fully implemented in the spirit of Article
VI, section 2, of the Constitution of the United States.
(3) Serious questions regarding the prior ownership of lands
in the State of New Mexico, particularly certain public lands,
(4) Congressionally established land claim commissions have
been used in the past to successfully examine disputed land
SEC. 3. ESTABLISHMENT AND MEMBERSHIP OF COMMISSION.
(a) Establishment.--There is established a commission to be known as
the ``Guadalupe-Hidalgo Treaty Land Claims Commission''.
(b) Number and Appointment of Members.--The Commission shall be
composed of five members appointed by the President by and with the
advice and consent of the Senate. At least two of the members of the
Commission shall be selected from among persons who are eligible
(c) Terms.--Each member shall be appointed for the life of the
Commission. A vacancy in the Commission shall be filled in the manner
in which the original appointment was made.
(d) Compensation.--Members shall each be entitled to receive the
daily equivalent of level V of the Executive Schedule for each day
(including travel time) during which they are engaged in the actual
performance of duties vested in the Commission.
SEC. 4. EXAMINATION OF LAND CLAIMS.
(a) Submission of Land Claims Petitions.--Any three (or more)
eligible descendants who are also descendants of the same community
land grant may file with the Commission a petition on behalf of
themselves and all other descendants of that community land grant
seeking a determination of the validity of the land claim that is the
basis for the petition.
(b) Deadline for Submission.--To be considered by the Commission, a
petition under subsection (a) must be received by the Commission not
later than five years after the date of the enactment of this Act.
(c) Elements of Petition.--A petition under subsection (a) shall be
made under oath and shall contain the following:
(1) The names and addresses of the eligible descendants who
(2) The fact that the land involved in the petition was a
community land grant at the time of the effective date of the
(3) The extent of the community land grant, to the best of
the knowledge of the petitioners, accompanied with a survey or,
if a survey is not feasible to them, a sketch map thereof.
(4) The fact that the petitioners reside, or intend to settle
upon, the community land grant.
(5) All facts known to petitioners concerning the community
land grant, together with copies of all papers in regard
thereto available to petitioners.
(d) Petition Hearing.--At one or more designated locations in the
State of New Mexico, the Commission shall hold a hearing upon each
petition timely submitted under subsection (a), at which hearing all
persons having an interest in the land involved in the petition shall
have the right, upon notice, to appear as a party.
(e) Subpoena Power.--
(1) In general.--The Commission may issue subpoenas requiring
the attendance and testimony of witnesses and the production of
any evidence relating to any petition submitted under
subsection (a). The attendance of witnesses and the production
of evidence may be required from any place within the United
States at any designated place of hearing within the State of
(2) Failure to obey a subpoena.--If a person refuses to obey
a subpoena issued under paragraph (1), the Commission may apply
to a United States district court for an order requiring that
person to appear before the Commission to give testimony,
produce evidence, or both, relating to the matter under
investigation. The application may be made within the judicial
district where the hearing is conducted or where that person is
found, resides, or transacts business. Any failure to obey the
order of the court may be punished by the court as civil
(3) Service of subpoenas.--The subpoenas of the Commission
shall be served in the manner provided for subpoenas issued by
a United States district court under the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure for the United States district courts.
(4) Service of process.--All process of any court to which
application is to be made under paragraph (2) may be served in
the judicial district in which the person required to be served
resides or may be found.
(f) Decision.--On the basis of the facts contained in a petition
submitted under subsection (a), and the hearing held with regard to the
petition, the Commission shall determine the validity of the community
land grant described in the petition. The decision shall include a
recommendation of the Commission regarding whether the community land
grant should be reconstituted and its lands restored.
(g) Protection of Non-Federal Property.--The decision of the
Commission regarding the validity of a petition submitted under
subsection (a) shall not affect the ownership, title, or rights of
owners of any non-Federal lands covered by the petition. Any
recommendation of the Commission under subsection (f) regarding whether
a community land grant should be reconstituted and its lands restored
may not address non-Federal lands. In the case of a valid petition
covering lands held in non-Federal ownership, the Commission shall
modify the recommendation under subsection (f) to recommend the
substitution of comparable Federal lands in the State of New Mexico for
the lands held in non-Federal ownership.
SEC. 5. COMMUNITY LAND GRANT STUDY CENTER.
To assist the Commission in the performance of its activities under
section 4, the Commission shall establish a Community Land Grant Study
Center at the Onate Center in Alcalde, New Mexico. The Commission shall
be charged with the responsibility of directing the research, study,
and investigations necessary for the Commission to perform its duties
under this Act.
SEC. 6. MISCELLANEOUS POWERS OF COMMISSION.
(a) Hearings and Sessions.--The Commission may, for the purpose of
carrying out this Act, hold hearings, sit and act at times and places,
take testimony, and receive evidence as the Commission considers
appropriate. The Commission may administer oaths or affirmations to
witnesses appearing before it.
(b) Powers of Members and Agents.--Any member or agent of the
Commission may, if authorized by the Commission, take any action which
the Commission is authorized to take by this section.
(c) Gifts, Bequests, and Devises.--The Commission may accept, use,
and dispose of gifts, bequests, or devises of services or property,
both real and personal, for the purpose of aiding or facilitating the
work of the Commission. Gifts, bequests, or devises of money and
proceeds from sales of other property received as gifts, bequests, or
devises shall be deposited in the Treasury and shall be available for
disbursement upon order of the Commission. For purposes of Federal
income, estate, and gift taxes, property accepted under this subsection
shall be considered as a gift, bequest, or devise to the United States.
(d) Mails.--The Commission may use the United States mails in the
same manner and under the same conditions as other departments and
agencies of the United States.
(e) Administrative Support Services.--Upon the request of the
Commission, the Administrator of General Services shall provide to the
Commission, on a reimbursable basis, the administrative support
services necessary for the Commission to carry out its responsibilities
under this Act.
(f) Immunity.--The Commission is an agency of the United States for
the purpose of part V of title 18, United States Code (relating to
immunity of witnesses).
SEC. 7. REPORT.
As soon as practicable after reaching its last decision under section
4, the Commission shall submit to the President and the Congress a
report containing each decision, including the recommendation of the
Commission regarding whether certain community land grants should be
reconstituted, so that the Congress may act upon the recommendations.
SEC. 8. TERMINATION.
The Commission shall terminate on 180 days after submitting its final
report under section 7.
SEC. 9. AUTHORIZATION OF APPROPRIATIONS.
There is authorized to be appropriated $1,000,000 for each of the
fiscal years 1999 through 2007 for the purpose of carrying out the
activities of the Commission and to establish and operate the Community
Land Grant Study Center under section 5.
PURPOSE OF THE BILL
The purpose of H.R. 2538 is to establish a Presidential
commission to determine the validity of certain land claims
arising out of the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo of 1848
involving the descendants of persons who were Mexican citizens
at the time of the Treaty.
BACKGROUND AND NEED FOR LEGISLATION
H.R. 2538 directs the President of the United States to
establish a Commission to determine the validity of certain
land claims (community land grants) arising out of the Treaty
of Guadalupe-Hidalgo of 1848 involving the descendants of
persons who were Mexican citizens at the time of the Treaty.
The Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo was the result of the end of
the Mexican-American War. This treaty led to the acquisition by
purchase ($15 million) of territories which now are the entire
states of California, Nevada, and Utah, along with significant
portions of Arizona, Texas, and New Mexico, and smaller
portions of Colorado and Wyoming.
Under the terms of the Treaty, sale of these territories to
the United States by Mexico was guaranteed. However, private
property rights within these territories held by Mexicans who
became or who were to become United States citizens would be
respected. In part, Article VIII of the Treaty states:
In the said territories, property of every kind, now
belonging to Mexicans not established there, shall be
inviolably respected. The present owners, the heirs of
these, and all Mexicans who may hereafter acquire said
property by contract, shall enjoy with respect to it
guarantees equally ample as if the same belonged to
citizens of the United States.
Allegedly, the federal government failed to observe this
section of the treaty and failed to protect the property rights
of these people. Thus, the Mexicans who became American
citizens lost all right and title to much of their property. It
is the heirs of these Mexicans who are now claiming the land
under the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo. Most of this property is
currently under federal ownership and is managed by the U.S.
Forest Service. It is a considerable amount of acreage
involving approximately 65 community land grant claims
estimated to be 1.5 million acres in New Mexico alone. There
are other land grants in Arizona and Texas.
This bill would establish a Commission to review and
determine the validity of the petitioned community land grant
claims filed by eligible descendants. The Commission will be
comprised of five members appointed by the President and
confirmed by the Senate. After reaching its last decision the
Commission will submit to the President and to Congress a
report containing the decisions and a recommendation on whether
each community land grant should be reconstituted.
H.R. 2538 was introduced on September 24, 1997, by
Congressman Bill Redmond (R-NM). The bill was referred to the
Committee on Resources, and within the Committee to the
Subcommittee on National Parks and Public Lands. On March 26,
1998, the Subcommittee held a hearing on H.R. 2538, where
witnesses from the State of New Mexico, including Roberto
Mondragon from the New Mexico Land Grant Forum, and Robert
Torrez, a State Historian, testified in favor of H.R. 2538. The
Clinton Administration failed to provide a witness or to
provide testimony at the hearing. On May 4, 1998, however, the
State Department sent a letter stating its opposition to H.R.
2538. On May 7, 1998 the Subcommittee met to mark up H.R. 2538.
An en bloc amendment was offered by Subcommittee Chairman James
V. Hansen (R-UT) to remove an unnecessary clause referring to
the tax status of the lands in question, make a minor spelling
correction, increase the length of the Commission from three to
five years, limit the jurisdiction of the Commission to the
State of New Mexico, clarify that the Commission may not
recommend taking private property to reconstitute a land grant
but may recommend the substitution of comparable federal lands
in their place, and insert a clause stating that Congress shall
act after receiving the Commission's recommendations. The
amendment was adopted by voice vote. The bill was then ordered
favorably reported to the Full Committee by voice vote. On May
20, 1998, the Full Resources Committee met to consider H.R.
2538. An en bloc amendment to strike language requiring that
two eligible descendants sit on the Commission and to strike
language allowing the Commission to accept gifts, bequests and
devises was offered by Congressman Bruce Vento (D-MN), and was
defeated by voice vote. Congressman Vento offered another
amendment to prevent the Commission from examining any land
claims that dealt with private property. The amendment was
defeated by a roll call vote of 11-17, as follows:
Congressman Sam Farr (D-CA) offered an amendment to clarify
that the Commission may only recommend the substitution of New
Mexico lands to reconstitute a land grant. The amendment passed
by unanimous consent. The bill as amended was then ordered
favorably reported to the House of Representatives in the
presence of a quorum by voice vote.
COMMITTEE OVERSIGHT FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
With respect to the requirements of clause 2(l)(3) of rule
XI of the Rules of the House of Representatives, and clause
2(b)(1) of rule X of the Rules of the House of Representatives,
the Committee on Resources' oversight findings and
recommendations are reflected in the body of this report.
FEDERAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE STATEMENT
The functions of the proposed advisory committee authorized
in H.R. 2538 are not currently being nor could they be
performed by one or more agencies, an advisory committee
already in existence or by enlarging the mandate of an existing
CONSTITUTIONAL AUTHORITY STATEMENT
Article I, section 8 and Article IV, section 3 of the
Constitution of the United States grant Congress the authority
to enact H.R. 2538.
COST OF THE LEGISLATION
Clause 7(a) of rule XIII of the Rules of the House of
Representatives requires an estimate and a comparison by the
Committee of the costs which would be incurred in carrying out
H.R. 2538. However, clause 7(d) of that Rule provides that this
requirement does not apply when the Committee has included in
its report a timely submitted cost estimate of the bill
prepared by the Director of the Congressional Budget Office
under section 403 of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974.
COMPLIANCE WITH HOUSE RULE XI
1. With respect to the requirement of clause 2(i)(3)(B) of
rule XI of the Rules of the House of Representatives and
section 308(a) of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, H.R.
2538 does not contain any new budget authority, credit
authority, or an increase or decrease in tax expenditures.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, enactment of H.R.
2538 would result in increased governmental receipts and
expenditures because the Commission established in the bill may
accept and spend donations. The estimated donations are less
than $500,000 a year.
2. With respect to the requirement of clause 2(i)(3)(D) of
rule XI of the Rules of the House of Representatives, the
Committee has received no report of oversight findings
andrecommendations from the Committee on Government Reform and
Oversight on the subject of H.R. 2538.
3. With respect to the requirement of clause 2(l)(3)(C) of
rule XI of the Rules of the House of Representatives and
section 403 of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, the
Committee has received the following cost estimate for H.R.
2538 from the Director of the Congressional Budget Office.
CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE COST ESTIMATE
Congressional Budget Office,
Washington, DC, May 29, 1998.
Hon. Don Young,
Chairman, Committee on Resources,
House of Representatives, Washington, DC.
Dear Mr. Chairman: The Congressional Budget Office has
prepared the enclosed cost estimate for H.R. 2538, the
Guadalupe-Hidalgo Treaty Land Claims Act of 1998.
If you wish further details on this estimate, we will be
pleased to provide them. The CBO staff contact is Victoria V.
June E. O'Neill, Director.
H.R. 2538--Guadalupe-Hidalgo Treaty Land Claims Act of 1998
Summary: H.R. 2538 would establish a commission, to be
known as the Guadalupe-Hidalgo Treaty Land Claims Commission,
and a study center to review petitions from eligible
descendants regarding the validity of certain land claims.
CBO estimates that implementing this bill would cost about
$1 million a year over the 1999-2003 period, assuming
appropriation of the authorized amounts. Enacting the bill
could affect direct spending and receipts; therefore, pay-as-
you-go procedures would apply, but we estimate that any such
effects would total less than $500,000 per year. H.R. 2538
contains no intergovernmental or private-sector mandates as
defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (UMRA) and would
have no significant impact on the budgets of state, local, or
Estimated cost to the Federal Government: The estimated
budgetary impact of H.R. 2538 is shown in the following table.
The costs of this legislation fall within budget function 300
(natural resources and the environment).
By fiscal years, in millions of dollars--
1999 2000 2001 2002 2003
SPENDING SUBJECT TO APPROPRIATION
Authorization level................................................ 1 1 1 1 1
Estimated outlays.................................................. 1 1 1 1 1
Basis of estimate: H.R. 2538 would establish a Guadalupe-
Hidalgo Treaty Land Claims Commission to review petitions from
eligible descendants regarding the validity of certain land
claims arising out of the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo of 1848.
To assist the commission in carrying out research, studies, and
investigations related to these claims, the bill also would
direct the commission to establish a Community Land Grant Study
Center at the Onate Center in Alcade, New Mexico. To be
considered by the commission, petitions would have to be
submitted within five years of the bill's enactment. H.R. 2538
would not empower the commission to settle any land claims, but
would direct it to submit a report to the President and the
Congress on its decisions and recommendations regarding such
petitions as soon as practicable thereafter. The commission
would terminate 180 days after submitting its final report.
Spending subject to appropriation
The bill would authorize the appropriation of $1 million
for each of the fiscal years 1999 through 2007 for the purpose
of carrying out the activities of the commission and
establishing and operating the Community Land Grant Study
Center. Assuming appropriation of the authorized amount for
each year, CBO estimates that costs would total about $5
million over the 1999-2003 period.
Direct spending and revenues
H.R. 2538 would authorize the commission to accept and
spend donations. Donations collected under this authority would
count as governmental receipts (i.e., revenues) and their
expenditure would count as direct spending. CBO estimates that
any such donations would total less than $500,000 per year.
Pay-as-you-go considerations: Section 252 of the Balanced
Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act sets up pay-as-you-go
procedures for legislation affecting direct spending or
receipts. H.R. 2538 could affect both direct spending and
receipts; therefore, pay-as-you-go procedures would apply. CBO
estimates, however, that any changes in receipts from donations
to the commission and consequent changes in direct spending
would both total less than $500,000 per year.
Intergovernmental and private-sector impact: H.R. 2538
contains no intergovernmental or private-sector mandates as
defined in UMRA and would have no significant impact on the
budgets of state, local, or tribal governments.
Estimate prepared by: Victoria V. Heid.
Estimate approved by; Robert A. Sunshine, Deputy Assistant
Director for Budget Analysis.
COMPLIANCE WITH PUBLIC LAW 104-4
H.R. 2538 contains no unfunded mandates.
CHANGES IN EXISTING LAW
If enacted, H.R. 2538 would make no changes in existing
We are opposed to H.R. 2838 in its present form. The issues
dealt with by the legislation are serious matters that deserve
closer attention than the Committee provided. This failure to
deal with the substantive questions raised by this bill has
resulted in the Committee reporting a poorly drafted bill that
creates more problems than it solves.
No one can tell us how many claims there maybe as a result
of this legislation. Since portions of New Mexico were acquired
in the Louisiana Purchase, the annexation of Texas, as well as
the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, we don't even know exactly
what parts of the State are affected by the bill. Since the
Treaty covered all or parts of seven western states, the bill
is opening the door to numerous potential land claims down the
road in those other states as well. Further, the lands in
question in New Mexico likely include numerous tracts in
private, as well as public ownership and may include parts of
some Indian Pueblos or reservations.
The language of H.R. 2538 itself is very troubling. The
bill contains no legal standards or rules of evidence by which
to judge any claims brought forth. As a quasi-judicial body,
there are conflicts of interest in having eligible descendants
serving as members of the commission, and with the commission
being able to accept gifts, especially from those who may
benefit from the commission's decisions. We also question how
lands, as provided by the bill, can be ``reconstituted'' or
restored as a municipality. What constitutes a municipality is
something for the State of New Mexico to determine and not
Contrary to what one may be led to believe, this bill is
not just directed at the possible actions of the Federal
Government. Under H.R. 2538 claims involving the Federal
Government, claims involving the actions of private parties,
and claims involving actions of a private party and a local
government are opened for the Commission's consideration. We
are also troubled by the open-ended nature of the bill that
provides that if at anytime a land grantee or descendent
relinquished title, for whatever reason, their heirs can now
come back and make a claim.
Instead of simply prohibiting land claims against private
property, the bill sets up a complicated system under which the
Federal Government is supposed to compensate a claim that
involves private lands. While the majority may have thought
such a provision dealt with the private property issue, they
have in reality opened untold private parcels to clouded
Since the ratification of the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo
in 1848, more than two hundred federal, state, and district
court decisions have interpreted the Treaty. The U.S. Supreme
Court has decided almost half of the major cases involving the
Treaty. Several laws were enacted were enacted in the 19th
century to address such claims, including a 1891 Act that
established a Court of Private Land Claims to deal with land
claims specifically in New Mexico. In addition, there have been
subsequent agreements with Mexico that have addressed Treaty
claims. H.R. 2538 ignores this body of law and legal decisions
and reopens all land grants to Commission review.
We recognize that for the potential claimants and their
supporters, H.R. 2538 is a matter of considerable interest.
However we believe that the interests of many private parties
and the public are being poorly served by this legislation in
its present form. Unless, the bill is amended to address the
many concerns and problems associated with the legislation, we
must urge our colleagues to oppose the bill.
Bruce F. Vento.
Edward J. Markey.