Just two days after the Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal of a homeschooling family from Germany seeking asylum in the United States, which would have led to deportation, the Obama Administration shocked the Romeike family and the Home School Legal Defense Association—in a good way:
The Department of Homeland Security verbally informed Home School Legal Defense Association that the Romeike family is being granted indefinite deferred action status. The Department told HSLDA that this meant the order of removal would not be acted on and that the Romeikes could stay.
In a statement posted yesterday, the HSLDA said:
Yesterday, the Supreme Court issued a denial of the Romeike family’s petition for certiorari, sparking an immediate and unprecedented reaction. Fox News told HSLDA that they recorded 1 million page views of the Romeikes’ story in 24 hours—an all-time high. Although many were not surprised by the Supreme Court’s decision, it seemed that this was the last hope for the family to avoid being sent back to Germany where they would undoubtedly be persecuted for homeschooling their children.
Uwe Romeike said he is extremely grateful for the support and welcome he has received from America.
“We are happy to have indefinite status even though we won’t be able to get American citizenship any time soon. As long as we can live at peace here, we are happy. We have always been ready to go wherever the Lord would lead us—and I know my citizenship isn’t really on earth. This has always been about our children. I wouldn’t have minded staying in Germany if the mistreatment targeted only me—but our whole family was targeted when German authorities would not tolerate our decision to teach our children—that is what brought us here,” he said.
“Our entire family is deeply grateful for all the support of our friends and fellow homeschoolers and especially HSLDA. I thank God for his hand of blessing and protection over our family. We thank the American government for allowing us to stay here and to peacefully homeschool our children—it’s all we ever wanted.”
Dr. Anne Hendershott, in a September 2013 CWR feature, “Homeschooling: Under Fire at Home and Abroad”, provided the basic background, writing that the Romeikes are
an evangelical Christian family that sought political asylum in the United States in 2010 after being subjected to criminal prosecution for homeschooling their five children in their home in Germany. At the US immigration hearings in 2010, Uwe and Hannelore Romeike claimed that they needed asylum in the United States because under German law homeschooling families are subject to arrest, fines, and the forcible removal of their children.
In February 2011, after an investigation of the claims of the Romeike family, federal immigration Judge Lawrence Burman granted political asylum to the family. Denouncing the German government’s policy against homeschooling, Judge Burman called it “utterly repellent to everything we believe as Americans.”
However, Judge Burman’s decision to grant asylum to the Romeike family was overturned by the US Board of Immigration Appeals in 2012. The Romeike family appealed, bringing their case before a three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit. Unfortunately, the Sixth Circuit Court issued a unanimous decision against the family’s plea for asylum on April 23, 2013. On May 28, Michael Farris, founder and chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association—a non-profit advocacy organization established in 1993 to defend and advance the constitutional right of parents to direct the education of their children—filed an appeal to the Sixth Circuit. But the family’s case for asylum was further weakened by the court brief issued on June 26 by the US Department of Justice maintaining that German laws outlawing homeschooling do not constitute persecution. In fact, the Justice Department’s brief concluded that “there is no indication that the German officials, in enforcing the [anti-homeschooling] law, are motivated by anything other than law enforcement. These factors reflect appropriate administration of the law, not persecution.” For Eric Holder’s Justice Department, the rights of parents to educate their children must be subordinate to the German goal of forming a “pluralistic society.”
Michael Harris, the founder and chairman of HSLDA, pointed out that Germany is currently “holding another family prisoner only because they wanted to leave to go to France to homeschool their children.” The situation in Germany is puzzling in many ways, not least because the countries strick anti-homeschooling laws were originally implemented by Adolf Hitler in the late 1930s, as Hendershott notes:
[Aaron T. Martin, JD,] writes that on May 1, 1937, Hitler made clear that the state was taking de factocustody of Germany’s children: “This new Reich will give its youth to no one, but will itself take youth and give to youth its own education and its own upbringing.” By 1938, Nazi law was in effect and specifically outlawed homeschooling under Reichsschulpflichtgesetz, the first general regulation in the German Reich. There were no exceptions allowed and criminal consequences were in place for those who persisted in homeschooling their children. The threat of parental punishment was enough to dissuade German families from homeschooling—until the 1980s, when a few German parents made an attempt to educate their children in their homes. Martin describes one case in which Helmut Stucher, an accountant, removed his children from the public school because he thought that the curriculum was “incompatible with his Christian belief and moral values.” This action led Stucher through several years of legal disputes, fines, loss of child custody, and a five-day prison sentence. After nine years, Stucher was given full custody of his children.
Following the unification of Germany in 1990, the Republic took strides to create a common and comprehensive educational system. The new unified German government brought its education laws into conformity with the federalist organization of Basic Law. Martin points out that the federal government controls the overarching educational policies ostensibly because the public need for education to be coordinated and harmonized throughout the country has led to an emphasis on the implementation of federal policies. The German government has successfully maintained before courts that this centralized education structure is necessary to protect its particular form of government. Martin points to the 2006 Konrad v Germany case, which held that it was within Germany’s power to require compulsory attendance in government-run schools over and against the parents’ challenge on religious freedom grounds. Martin also points out that decisions of German courts against homeschoolers, such as the Konrad decision, have been appealed to the European Court of Human Rights to no avail. In that case, the European Court of Human Rights maintained that Germany was within its “margin of appreciation.” Insisting on the need to “avoid the emergence of parallel societies based on separate philosophical convictions and the importance of integrating minorities into society,” German officials continue to deny the rights of families to homeschool their children.