The U.S. Justice Department wants to overturn asylum status granted to a homeschooling family in 2010 and deport them to Germany, where the parents likely face huge fines and criminal penalties, and could lose custody of their five school-age children.
Attorney General Eric Holder argues that Germany’s ban on homeschooling fails to violate the “fundamental rights” of Uwe and Hannelore Romeike, parents of six who are looking to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to give them permanent refugee status.
The Romeikes fled Germany in 2008 after authorities fined them and forcibly took their children because they homeschool. In 2010, a U.S. immigration judge granted the Romeikes political asylum—the first time federal authorities granted protective status based on compulsory schooling laws. The judge found the family has legitimate fear of persecution in Germany, where a small group of Christian homeschooling families have already been jailed, fined, and stripped of custody of their children for creating what the law terms “parallel societies.”
The Department of Homeland Security, fearing backlash from European allies, immediately disputed the judge’s decision. Last May, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) sided with the government. A circuit court ruling may take up to a year, according to the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), which is representing the Romeikes.
A favorable verdict could draw more families to the United States from Germany and other European countries—including Sweden, Spain, and the Netherlands—where homeschooling is mostly illegal and heavily prosecuted.
The U.S. government typically grants asylum to torture victims, political dissidents, and religious minorities. In the past decade it has expanded asylum status to include several hundred harassed homosexuals. But Holder contends that persecuted homeschoolers fail to represent a “particular social group” needing U.S. protection.