A lawmaker is blaming the New Jersey's new "sanctuary state" policies for the death of a Jersey City nanny who prosecutors say was raped and killed in a park last month by a man who had been deported twice.

Jorge Rios is being held at the Hudson County jail on charges of murder, sexual assault and kidnapping in the death of Carolina Cano, whose body was found in a lake at Lincoln Park.

The crime has spurred state Sen. Joe Pennacchio, R- Morris, to call for legislative hearings on the Murphy administration's directive limiting local law enforcement cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

“This was an edict from the governor directing the attorney general what the laws should be and should be enforced. It shouldn’t be done that way; it should be done through the legislative process," Pennacchio said.

“These laws have to be properly vetted, testimony has to be given, we should find out what could happen — good bad and indifferent — and see if we can change that and make them better.”

Pennacchio said he believes the directive encourages unauthorized immigrants like Rios to seek harbor in New Jersey.

“He should not have been in this country and if there had been a cooperation between the federal and state authorities, perhaps he would not have been in this country," he said.

The directive, announced by state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal in November, spells out rules that prohibit local and state police from questioning people about their immigration status unless it is relevant to an investigation, and it also limits cooperation by county and state jail officials with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

When the directive was put forth, Grewal said “we’re telling our friends and our neighbors who have been living in fear: You can trust state law enforcement. You can trust state prosecutors here in New Jersey.”

He added that “nothing in this directive provides sanctuary to those who commit crimes in New Jersey. If you break the law in New Jersey, if you assault someone, if you rob someone, if you defraud someone, we will hold you accountable no matter your immigration status. If you break the law in New Jersey, we will go after you, no matter your immigration status. No one gets a free pass.”

But Pennacchio insists the directive should have never been issued without the involvement of state lawmakers.

“Unfortunately, I think it’s going to take more of these tragedies for my fellow legislators to open up their eyes and say hey, we’ve got to do something.”

The state Attorney General's Office did not respond to a request for comment on Pennacchio's call for hearings.

Pennacchio recently introduced a bill to force unauthorized immigrants who have been convicted of, or are fleeing a sex crime charge from another country, to register under Megan’s Law when they are apprehended in New Jersey.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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