(Photo: Home School Legal Defense Association)
A U.S. appeals court sided with the U.S. Justice Department on Tuesday and denied asylum for the Romeikes. They fled from Germany after they were threatened with the possibility of losing custody of their children when they decided to homeschool and refused to send their children to the German public schools.
The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the Justice Department, in Romeike vs. Holder, that the freedom to homeschool one's children is not among the fundamental rights protected for asylum seekers. The Home School Legal Defense Association, which represented the Romeikes in the case, said it will appeal the decision.
"We believe the Sixth Circuit is wrong, and we will appeal their decision," said Michael Farris, HSLDA founder and chairman. "America has room for this family, and we will do everything we can to help them."
According to an HSLDA press release, the court recognized parents have the right to direct the education of their children under the U.S. Constitution, but also noted that asylum is not granted to every victim of unfair treatment.
"There is a difference between the persecution of a discrete group and the prosecution of those who violate a generally applicable law. As the Board of Immigration Appeals permissibly found, the German authorities have not singled out the Romeikes in particular or homeschoolers in general for persecution. As a result, we must deny the Romeikes' petition for review and, with it, their applications for asylum," Judge Jeffrey S. Sutton wrote in the opinion for the court.
Mike Donnelly, HSLDA director of international affairs, contended that Germany is in fact persecuting homeschoolers. "The court ignored mountains of evidence that homeschoolers are harshly fined and that custody of their children is gravely threatened – something most people would call persecution. This is what the Romeikes will suffer if they are sent back to Germany," he stressed.
HSLDA also began a White House petition asking the administration to grant asylum for the Romeikes. In mid-April, the petition surpassed the 100,000 signatures needed for the White House to provide an official response. The White House has yet to provide that response.
The Romeikes – Uwe, Hannelore and their six children – chose to homeschool because they believed that the German public schools were teaching their children values that contradicted their evangelical Christian beliefs. They fled to the United States in 2008 after HSLDA helped them leave Germany.
They were first granted asylum by a U.S. District Court in 2010. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement appealed that decision in 2012 and was supported by the Board of Immigration Appeals. The case then went to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Justice Department defended the Board of Immigration Appeals ruling, arguing, in part, that homeschooling is not a fundamental right.