New Mexico AG urges Congress to remedy land-grant claims

Chris Rizo Aug. 16, 2008, 11:37am

Gary King (D)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (Legal Newsline)-New Mexico Attorney General Gary King says he wants the state's congressional delegation to "consider all appropriate alternatives" to address the historical treatment of land grants in the Land of Enchantment.

King, a Democrat, said he wants members of Congress to help decide how to remedy the loss of land grants in the state in the 1800s.

King made his call after receiving a state report critical of a 2004 U.S. General Accounting Office report that found the U.S. government had met the legal requirements in vetting the land-grant claims in the second half of the 1800s.

"I respectfully request that the New Mexico congressional delegation take a leadership role in studying the GAO Report and this Response to the Attorney General, and consider fully all appropriate remedies to address the historical treatment of Land Grant claims in New Mexico," King said in a statement.

Under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the Mexican-American War in 1848, New Mexico citizens were granted millions of acres of land by Spain and Mexico.

The U.S. government had promised to respect the land holdings but descendants of the original landowners have said the federal government has failed to recognize their claims.

King said that the "most effective available remedies" appear to be legislative since the U.S. Supreme Court has limited heirs of land grants to pursue their claims against the government.

The state report was conducted by David Benavides and Ryan Golten of New Mexico Legal Aid, which received a $20,000 contract to conduct an independent analysis of the GAO findings.

King said he is pleased with the group's report.

"The Response is an excellent and well-researched piece of historical and legal scholarship, and I am pleased to present it to the New Mexico state Legislature, our congressional delegation, the GAO and all persons interested in this important subject," King said.

The GAO report was requested in 2001 by New Mexico Sens. Pete Domenici, a Republican, and Democrat Jeff Bingaman and Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M.

From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo at

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