Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Reich on US-Mexico Boundary Adjudications

Peter L. Reich, now a Lecturer in Law at the UCLA School of Law, has posted Border of Water, Border of Law: Río Bravo/Rio Grande Boundary Adjudications Since 1884, which appears in the Maryland Journal of International Law 33 (2018): 205-14:
This article, a preliminary version of a larger project, analyzes a century of binational decisions by which the International Boundary Commission (IBC) and its successor, the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC), allocated ownership of bancos (riverine islands) in the Río Bravo/Rio Grande River, the watercourse forming half of the Mexico-US border. The manuscript reports of banco allocations following the 1884 Convention on the Elimination of Bancos show that the IBC and IBWC made decisions based on the Roman law doctrines of accretion and avulsion: Slow accumulation of sediment moved the boundary along with the river’s altered course, but rapid changes left the border in the prior channel. Diplomats employed these shared legal principles to reconcile the distinct systems of Mexican civil law and US common law, constructing a water barrier acceptable to elites in both countries. Border-area residents, however, were often displaced and disempowered by these territorial transfers, over which they had little control.
 --Dan Ernst