KTTH OPINION

Rantz: Sanctuary law protected illegal immigrant suspected in trooper’s death

Mar 6, 2024, 7:12 PM | Updated: Mar 7, 2024, 10:12 am

Image: Raul Benitez Santana is suspected of killing a WSP trooper....

Raul Benitez Santana is suspected of killing a WSP trooper. (Image courtesy of KIRO 7 News)

(Image courtesy of KIRO 7 News)

Two days after Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed Democrats’ sanctuary state legislation into law, Raul Benitez Santana, who is accused of killing a Washington State Patrol (WSP) trooper on a state highway last Saturday, accepted a plea agreement for a domestic violence incident years earlier. He was in this country illegally at the time. Court documents indicate officials may have, or should have, suspected his status as an illegal immigrant.

Santana was arrested for assaulting his on-again, off again girlfriend, M.C., whom he had a five-month-old child with. The victim said she got into an argument with Santana over text messages he was getting from another female, according to King County court documents obtained by the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH.

Angry, M.C. grabbed Santana’s phone and threw it. Santana responded by punching her 11 times, according to the court documents. She was left with swollen and bloodied face, a broken nose, and a bump above her right eye. Their child was present for the fight but was not harmed. The assault took place in August 2017, and the case was resolved with a plea deal in May 2019.

More from Jason Rantz: ICE Seattle nabs child sex criminals as migrant crime concerns persist

Did officials know Raul Benitez Santana is an illegal immigrant?

Santana is a Mexican citizen, but it’s unclear how or when he illegally entered the United States, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). While living here illegally, he racked up several convictions. The court documents do not indicate law enforcement or the prosecutors knew Santana’s citizenship status. However, the documents indicate there could have been reason to suspect he was in this country illegally.

“The search incident to his arrest yielded multiple identification documents for him bearing a variety of names and other changed identifying information such as social security numbers,” the document says. Of course, this does not prove someone is in this country illegally. But it would normally raise suspicions — if you were allowed to investigate.

If law enforcement suspected Santana was an illegal immigrant when they first investigated the case in 2017, they would have likely ignored it. By August 2017, King County officials (along with the City of Seattle) proudly declared itself a sanctuary for illegal immigrants. It was an attempt to rebuff then-President Donald Trump’s promise to clamp down on illegal immigration because of the obvious public safety implications. By 2019, when Santana was offered a non-felony plea deal with time served, county officials were legally prohibited from acting on Santana’s citizenship status.

In Washington, and other sanctuaries, Democrats do not differentiate between criminal illegal immigrants who flaunt our laws and present a clear danger, and illegal immigrants who came here for a better life.

Jason Rantz content: Washington Dems diverted $460M to illegal immigrants into 2023

Why does his status as an illegal immigrant matter?

Washington followed in the footsteps of California and Oregon in enacting a statewide sanctuary law. It was heralded by the Left as a compassionate response to Trump’s rhetoric. But it made the state verifiably less safe.

Under the sanctuary state law, law enforcement would only be allowed to question a suspect about his or her citizenship or birthplace if it is directly related to a criminal investigation. The Santana case did not have qualify. Additionally, neither local jails nor state prisons are allowed to comply with voluntary “immigration holds” requested by federal law enforcement. They cannot even notify federal agencies when an illegal immigrant would be released.

Santana was given a light punishment thanks to the non-felony plea deal, despite the seriousness of the incident. This strongly indicates the victim may not have wanted to cooperate with the prosecution, though the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office did not clarify by publication.

If local agencies were able to ascertain Santana was in this country illegally, they could have offered information to ICE so that they could detain and ultimately remove him from this country. That means, he would never have been in a position to allegedly drive his car, while high and possibly drunk, into an innocent 27-year-old father, husband, and Washington State Trooper. Christopher  Gadd did not have to die.

UPDATE 3/7/24  TIME: 8:15 a.m. Prosecutor explains plea

A King County prosecutor provided the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH a statement confirming that the reason for the plea was an uncooperative victim.

In this case, several efforts were made to contact the victim over multiple months.  A domestic violence advocate was ultimately able to establish contact with the victim who asked the case be dropped, and if not dropped, then reduced and for the defendant to get treatment.  The victim also made multiple requests to remove the court ordered no-contact order protecting her.  The case was reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor with treatment.  Following sentencing, the victim continued to ask for the no contact order to be recalled. 

The prosecutor saif that the court denied the request in part, but allowed for contact. They just could not live together. Ultimately, the no contact order “was completely recalled in 2020 per the victim’s request.”

More from Jason Rantz: Did Texas Gov. Greg Abbott send illegal immigrants to Seattle?

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Rantz: Sanctuary law protected illegal immigrant suspected in trooper’s death