Should the U.S. give Pt. Roberts to Canada?

When the 49th Parallel was defined as the border between the United States and Canada, a little bit of southern British Columbia became part of the U.S. Pt. Roberts is part of the state of Washington, but it is connected to B.C. As I understand it, school children have to commute two hours to Blaine (IIRC) each school day, and pass two border crossings twice each day. I’ve heard that there are no pizza restaurants in Pt. Roberts, and that Canadian restaurants can’t deliver across the border. It sounds like a pain.

Why not just give Pt. Roberts to Canada. If I were King if the U.S. I’d say, “Hey, Canada. We’re neighbours and we like each other. Sure, we have our differences; but we still manage to get along. Look: It seems silly that we should keep this little point of land. Take it, with our blessings. It’s a gift.”

What about the people living there, who may not want to be Canadians? How about this? As part of the deal any U.S. citizen who is a resident of Pt. Roberts would be offered a choice of accepting Canadian citizenship, or be automatically given resident-alien status. They would be able to work in Canada and their children could attend Canadian schools. They would be entitled to all of the benefits of Canadian residence/citizenship.

It seems equitable to me. The current residents of Pt. Roberts would get to stay where they are, they would no longer have to face border crossings for the simplets of errands, and Canada would get that little bit of B.C. The U.S. would get brownie points for doing something nice for it’s neighbour.

Any thoughts?

Utterly ridiculous. Does Canada even want it? Do the people want it? As for being given RA status, maybe they, you know, like the US government and the US Constitution better than the Canadian government? The only way this should occur is if 100% of the people want to be part of Canada, then I’d say you might have a case.

It’s a logical, reasonable, and fair solution. So, of course, neither government would accept it.

Canada and the U.S., amazingly, STILL bitch at each other over little territorial disputes.

How is it logical, reasonable or fair?

I don’t believe that the Constitution allows for land to be given away to another country once it is a state. Civil war and all that. Sets a bad precedent.

Neurotik: I’m not suggesting thatthe residents be kept prisoner there. They can become Canadian citizens, become resident aliens, or they can move.

Rhum Runner: Pt. Roberts isn’t a state. In any case, does the Constitution disallow ceding land to another country? I can’t see a civil war breaking out for a bit of land that, but for the 49th Parallel, would be part of Canada anyway. If The Line is not to be changed, then why doesn’t the U.S. have the southern half of Vancouver Island? It seems to me that it could make a little jog for Pt. Roberts.

I have absolutely no problem with Canada; in certain specific areas, I like their laws better than the U.S. ones. But what you’re proposing here is not merely that a land realignment be done, which has been done before and will be done again by treaty in the history of the world, but that the present occupants of that land, who are American citizens, be compelled to become Canadian citizens/subjects* and consequently deprived of their U.S. citizenship. And the reasons advanced are that the children have too long a trip to school and that they cannot get timely pizza deliveries.

Simple solutions to both these problems exist.

Regarding schools: (1) Whatcom County builds and staffs a school on Point Roberts. (2) If Whatcom County cannot reasonably be expected to do so, Washington State or the U.S. subsidizes it. (3) Arrangements are made for Point Roberts students to attend school in Richmond, by a pact between the relevant authorities (school districts, states, or countries, as appropriate). Students from two countries attending school together could be an education in itself.

Regarding pizza: (1) The last time I looked, there existed no law guaranteeing U.S. citizens the right to pizza deliveries. (2) An executive agreement between U.S. and Canada that permits delivery vehicles and vendors to make sales and deliveries as appropriate for the convenience of their residents near the border, with particular reference to circumstances such as this, the Quebec border with the New England states, Angle Inlet MN, and so on, would not be too difficult to do.

In short, you’re metaphorically proposing to cure a case of poor drainage and consequent erosion on my side lawn by denonating a H-bomb there.

  • As Canada is formally a monarchy, “subjects” is correct, and has no pejorative implications – in Churchill’s words, “one of the proudest boasts of a free man is to be a subject of His Majesty!” I’ve heard “citizens” often used of Canadians, and have no idea which is the preferred usage these days.

Polycarp: A resident alien would not have to surrender his or her U.S. citizenship. He or she would be a U.S. citizen living in another country.

Pizza was just an example of how things most people take for granted may be difficult to get. I’m not a resident of Pt. Roberts, so I don’t know all that may not be readily available there. Suffice it to say though, that it’s more difficult for a resident to go on a shopping trip to Vancouver because he or she lives in the U.S.

Why not allow kids to attend school in Richmond and people to cross the border freely (i.e., without going through a checkpoint)? I see nothing wrong with that. I believe in open borders. The risk of a terrorist slipping into the U.S. trough Canada – having first arrived in Pt. Roberts – is slim. After all, they’d have to get into the U.S. to get into Pt. Roberts. With this sort of arrangement, Pt. Roberts residents would be “virtual Canadians” anyway. Why not make it official?

Pt. Roberts is a part of the state of Washington. In Texas v. White (1869) SCOTUS settled the issue of secession. Once land is part of a state it can not leave the union, even if it wants to.

But why should they have to make that choice? Why not just let them remain US citizens, in US territories and not having to surrender any of their rights by no longer living in the US?

But this has nothing at all to do with ceding Port Roberts. Read the opinion. Nowhere does it prohibit the Federal government from ceding land to another country. It only states that the Union as a whole is indissoluble. It does not say that a state of the US cannot, with the consent of the Federal government, cede a portion of its territory to another entity.

Did you catch this part? "The Constitution, in all its provisions, looks to an indestructible Union, composed of indestructible States… "

If the land is part of the state, and the state is indestructible how do you propose to give it away? It is pretty clear that the state cannot leave, in whole or in part. At least, that is how I read it. Certainly I don’t see where the Feds can come in and order a part of the state to be given to a foreign power, but if you have some other authority on which to rely, by all means let’s here it.

Where did I say order? If both the state and the Federal government agree, what’s the problem?

And in any case, the “indestructability” of a state is utterly repudiated by practice. My evidence: West Virginia. If Virginia were indestructable, West Virginia could not exist.

“Subjects” is incorrect. Canadians are citizens of Canada, not subjects of a monarch. I’d go into explaining the difference, but it’s been explained before better than I could do it, so a search would turn it up.

I would think that the U.S. would, if it wanted to give away Pt. Roberts, have to be willing to PAY its residents if they wanted to move. I don’t think it’s enough to arrange a deal with Canada - you’d have to give them real cash money.

West Virginia is a complicated story and whose legality is in doubt.

West Virginia became a state in 1863. ]Texas v. White was decided in 1869. So far as I know, White is still good law, and therefore I maintain that Pt. Roberts cannot be given to Canada. Got anything else?

The legality of state secession would have no relevance whatsoever to an attempt to cede Point Roberts. The United States is a soveriegn nation with the power to sign treaties concerning its borders. A very similar example occurred in Texas in 1964 when the United States and Mexico signed the Chamizal treaty, which ceded disputed territory which had been claimed and administered by Texas to Mexico. See Note that 5,000 people had to move to accommodate the change. They didn’t like it, but there was nothing they could do about it.

jklann um, no. The situations are completely inapposite. In the Mexico case you have a situation where the boarder was defined by a river, the boarder was disputed, and the true location of the boarder was never defined with any great precision. Defining the boarder as being the Rio Grande river obviously is going to invite controversy. Suppose the river unexpectedly detoured south to Mexico City, would anyone seriously contend that all the land north of the city suddenly became part of the US? No, of course not.

In the case of Pt. Roberts there is no dispute over where the boarder lies, there is no shifting river, and the land is firmly a part of Washington state.

I meant to add earlier that there are many island communities in Maine that are at least as inconveniently located as those on Pt. Roberts re schools and other things. People that choose to live there have to accept the inherent difficulties.

Maybe so, but the Chamizal Treaty is the closest precedent we have to a hypothetical attempt to cede Point Roberts. (It’s certainly more on point than Texas v. White). There has never, to my knowledge, been a case where the United States ceded land which was part of a state to a foreign power in a case where the foreign power did not claim the land as part of a boundary dispute. But I refuse to accept that the United States could not do so if it wished. Under the Supremacy Clause of Article VI treaties made under the United States Constitution are the “supreme Law of the Land”. I can’t fathom a court striking down a land cession treaty as unconstitutional.

No indeed, that would be a shift by “avulsion”. But river boundaries can and do shift by “erosion”. The Chamizal dispute concerned whether the Rio Grande had shifted by avulsion or erosion.

Now this is an interesting question. Can an unconstitutional treaty be given force of law? I think, at a minimum, Texas v. White holds that states may not secede, and they are indivisible. So, can Congress, acting through their treaty and supremacy power divide a state and then give the land to a foreign power?

It seems settled that the Congress may grant foreign territory and lands to other sovereigns through treaty. See Edwards v. Carter 580 F.2d 1055. In that case a treaty conferred the Panama Canal back to Panama. Ok, but that wasn’t a state.

What do you make of this?

Reid v. Covert 77 S.Ct. 1222, 1230 (1957). Later in the same opinion we get this:

This seems, to me, to say that Congress can not due through treaty what is denied to it by the Constitution, and thus I continue to maintain that we cannot give land to Canada.

Texas = dividing a state is unconstitutional.
Reid = no unconstitutional treaties.
Ergo, no grant of Washington St. land to Canada. What do you think?