The Secretary of State to the Mexican Ambassador (Téllez)

Excellency: I have the honor to refer to Your Excellency’s note No. 766, of February 6, 1929, stating that your Government has approved, with certain reservations and exceptions, Minute No. 111, of December 21, 1928, of the International Boundary Commission, United States and Mexico, in relation to the proposed stabilization of the boundary and the rectification of the Rio Grande in the vicinity of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, and El Paso, Texas.

You say in this connection that your Government has never agreed to a joint study of the “stabilization of the boundary line and the rectification of the Rio Bravo, etc. etc.,” as would appear from Paragraph I of Minute No. 111, but merely agreed to study the problem from a technical point of view and to decide it by means of a convention concluded for that purpose and that, accordingly, the Commission was to be limited to making a study of the engineering and construction problems pertinent to the protection against floods on either side of the river, without including problems of an international character. You also refer to Paragraph II of Minute No. 111, stating that “present conditions on the river create uncertainty in land titles and property rights”, and that your Government does not consider the statement to be correct, inasmuch as the treaties and conventions now in force and the labors of the International Boundary [Page 475] Commission exactly determine the conditions in which property rights and titles of lands separated by changes in the river must remain.

Respecting the latter observation, I have the honor to inform Your Excellency that the American Commissioner on the International Boundary Commission points out in a recent communication to the Department that your Government appears to have in mind national title and national sovereignty over certain lands, rather than private and individual titles. Commenting further on this particular matter, the Commissioner adds:

“The idea intended to be conveyed in the phrasing used in Minute No. 111 referred to the confusion and contentions existing over the private rights and claims of nationals of each country, and the difficulties that exist in the adjustment of such private claims following the application of the treaty provisions by the Boundary Commission. The existing treaties which have been in effect many years were negotiated and finally accepted on the basis of conditions that then existed, rather than those that now confront the two countries due to the improvements on properties adjoining the river, which is the boundary line. The lands abutting to the meandering river, previously largely unsettled and unimproved, have now taken on a status of high development and settlement which calls for more stabilized conditions than the previous and existing treaties recognize. In other words, there is demand from the individual land owners and communities that artificial rectification of the channel be agreed upon which would prevent the meanderings of the river.”

With reference to the other question raised in Your Excellency’s note, concerning the stabilization of the boundary line in the vicinity of El Paso, I have the honor to inform you that it will be entirely agreeable to this Government to have the Commission proceed with its studies of all the conditions surrounding the proposed engineering plan, the principal aim of which is to prevent further disastrous floods in the vicinity of Ciudad Juarez and El Paso and to provide a river channel and boundary line in such location that all lands to the North will pertain to the United States, and all lands to the South pertain to Mexico. With this end in view, I have the honor to invite Your Excellency’s attention to the desirability of Your Government’s authorizing the Mexican Boundary Commissioner to proceed with the American Commissioner in such activities of the Commission as will result in the preparation of a joint report and a suggested draft agreement or convention for the consideration of the two Governments, covering the entire situation of river rectification, boundary stabilization and disposition of detached areas, contemplated by the proposed engineering plan.

Accept [etc.]

Henry L. Stimson