German Family Who Fled to U.S. to Homeschool Children Appeal Deportation Order

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On April 23, 2013, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments in the case of Romeike v. Holder, where the family will attempt to have the deportation order made against them set aside. While the Romeikes had originally been granted asylum in the United States, on the grounds Germany prevented them from homeschooling their children, that decision was overturned by a panel of the Board of Immigration Appeals.

Homeschooling is Illegal in Germany

German parents have not been able to legally homeschool their children since the practice was banned by the Nazis in 1938. The purpose of the ban was to force children to be indoctrinated by schools controlled by Hitler and the Third Reich.

After that time, the ban has been upheld by the Supreme Court of Germany. According to the court, “preventing homeschooling was to counteract the development of religious and philosophically motivated parallel societies.”

Uwe and Hannelore Romeike are evangelical Christians. In 2006, they took their five children out of state-run schools and homeschooled them. The couple claimed their kids were being taught things that went against the family’s religious beliefs. German law allows for fines and imprisonment to be imposed on parents who do not send their children to state-run school. Eventually, the Romeikes racked up fines of approximately $9,000. The state also threatened to take the children away from the Romeikes if they did not send them back to school.

In 2008, the family fled Germany and arrived in the United States where they made claims for asylum.

Immigration Judge Grants Asylum to the Romeike Family

Under American law, asylum can be granted to a claimant who proves he or she has a well-founded fear of persecution on account of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion. Claims for asylum can be made by a foreign national who is already in the United States or who appears at a port of entry.

The Romeikes applied for asylum after reaching the United States. They settled in Tennessee and a hearing was held in Memphis on January 21, 2010 before Immigration Judge Lawrence O. Burman. Five days later, Burman rendered his decision granting asylum to the family.

The judge found the motivation of the German government was suspect. In his reasons Burman said rather than consider what is best for the welfare of the children, the government was concerned only with parallel societies—something Burman found odd.

In his oral reasons, the judge stated, “Homeschoolers are a particular social group that the German government is trying to supress. This family has a well-founded fear of persecution…therefore they are eligible for asylum.”

The government appealed the decision of Judge Burman to the Board of Immigration Appeals. In 2012, the board allowed the appeal and ordered the Romeikes to be deported. It is the appeal from this decision that will be heard by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

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