Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 26, 2023 / 15:20 pm (CNA).
A German family that has lived in the United States for more than a decade after leaving their home country in order to legally home-school their children faces possible deportation next month, their supporters said.
The Romeikes — father Uwe, mother Hannelore, and their then-five children — fled Germany in 2009 over the country’s severe compulsory education laws, which effectively outlaw home schooling and require all children to attend school outside the home.
The evangelical Christian family has had two more children since arriving in the U.S. and made their home in Tennessee. The couple initially sought asylum from the federal government, claiming religious persecution from German authorities.
They were eventually granted indefinitely deferred action status by the Obama administration, allowing them to reside in the U.S. for more than a decade.
The Home School Legal Defense Association — a pro-home schooling nonprofit that has advocated the Romeikes’ case over the years — said in a release last week that during a recent “routine check-in” with immigration officials they were “told … that they had four weeks to secure passports and return to Germany.”
“The news came without warning, and with no apparent cause or explanation,” HSLDA said.
Kevin Boden, an attorney with HSLDA and the director of HSLDA International, told CNA that it is unclear what may or may not occur at next month’s meeting.
“They were basically given four weeks to come back,” Boden said. “They have a report date in October. They don’t know what is going to happen in that meeting. They don’t know if they’re going to be forced to leave. They don’t know if they’re going to be taken into custody.”
“‘Come back in four weeks and bring your passports,’” Boden added. “That combination is a little bit scary.”
The attorney said HSLDA is continuing to work with the family. The nonprofit group had originally helped litigate the family’s unsuccessful asylum attempt all the way to the Supreme Court; the court ultimately turned down the family’s appeal without hearing it. HSLDA is now pursuing a variety of options to secure the family’s continued status in the U.S.
“We’re working with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) through those legal channels,” Boden said. “We’re pursuing a petition to the White House, to the Biden administration.”
The group is also asking supporters to reach out to their congressional representatives to urge support for a bill from Tennessee Rep. Diana Harshbarger that would allow the family to claim permanent resident status.
“Those things would provide some impetus for the Romeikes to stay in the country, or at least give them a little bit of time,” he said.
The Romeikes did not respond to a request for comment. Reached via email, a spokesman for the Biden Department of Justice responded: “We respectfully decline to comment.” ICE did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.
The two eldest Romeike children have since married U.S. citizens; their eldest daughter, Lydia, has one child with her American husband. The family’s two youngest daughters, meanwhile, are U.S. citizens by birth.
Once a rare practice controlled heavily by state regulation, home schooling in the U.S. has expanded in recent decades due to the efforts of groups like the HSLDA.
It is legal in every state, with HSLDA listing the majority of states as having only “low” or “moderate” home school regulation.
Home schooling in Europe is much more tightly regulated. Many countries there outlaw it entirely, with others allowing it but only under strict guidelines.
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