German Home-Schooling Family Allowed to Stay in U.S.

Freedom, Immigration

Early this month the U.S. Supreme Court refused to consider the case of a German family seeking asylum in the U.S. so that they can home school their children, which they are not allowed to do in Germany. Less than 24 hours later, however, the family’s lawyer received a call from the Department of Homeland Security informing him that the family will not be deported and may stay in the U.S. indefinitely. In their home country, the family would be forced to pay substantial fines and could even lose custody of their children for keeping their children out of state-approved schools in Germany. Many home-schooling supporters and human rights activists believe that the family’s inability to educate their children in their home in Germany violates a fundamental human right.

The Romeike Immigration Case

The Romeikes were initially granted asylum in 2010 by a Memphis immigration judge who believed Germany had unfairly restricted the family’s religious freedom. That decision, however, was challenged and overturned by the an immigration panel on appeal. The Obama administration has remained adamant that Germany’s home-schooling ban does not constitute religious persecution and is not basis for U.S. asylum.

The Romeikes appealed to a federal appellate court, saying Germany’s laws violate international human rights standards, which the court disagreed with. Again, the family was denied asylum.

In October, the family appealed to the Supreme Court, who rejected their immigration petition as the Obama administration has asked federal courts to side with Germany. Since the school attendance law in Germany is enforced against all families, the U.S. has maintained that the family should not be granted asylum as they are not being persecuted or singled out. Some observers have noted that several European countries permit home-schooling, where the family perhaps could have located instead.

Why Were the Romeikes Allowed to Stay?

No one seems to be sure why the Department of Homeland Security ultimately decide to grant the family “indefinite deferred status,” (which is not quite asylum, but they are being allowed to stay permanently, or until convicted of a crime). Perhaps the Department agrees with human rights activists who warn that the family would most certainly be persecuted and could lose custody of their children upon returning to Germany, where they already owe at least $9,000 in fines.

Michael Farris, chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association, which has been representing the family, said the HSLDA will “…pursue changes to the asylum law in [the U.S.] to ensure that religious freedom is once again vigorously protected in our policy.”