A German homeschooling family's request for political asylum was granted Tuesday, five days after their case was heard by a U.S. immigration judge.
In his ruling, Judge Lawrence O. Burman acknowledged that not every country can be expected to follow the United States' Constitution. But in the case of the Romeikes, formerly of Bissingen, Germany, Burman said the rights that were being violated were "basic human rights that no country has a right to violate."
"Homeschoolers are a particular social group that the German government is trying to suppress," the judge stated in his decision, according to the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), which represented the family in their case.
Though Germany is a democratic country and a U.S. ally, Burman noted Tuesday that its policy against homeschoolers is "repellent to everything we believe as Americans."
In Germany, it is illegal to homeschool children between the ages of six to 18 as school attendance is mandatory for those in that age group. Despite this, there are reportedly about 400 homeschool families in Germany - almost all operating underground or are in court for the right to control the education of their children on religious grounds.
Families that are caught homeschooling their children are regularly fined thousands of dollars, threatened with imprisonment, or have the custody of their children taken away.
"This family has a well-founded fear of persecution," Burman ruled. "[T]herefore, they are eligible for asylum … and the court will grant asylum."
Upon hearing the decision, the Romeikes expressed relief and gratitude to the judge and to those who have been praying for them – especially other German homeschoolers who, like many conservative parents in the United States, want to teach their own children because their country's school textbooks contain language and ideas that conflict with their moral and/or religious values.
"We greatly appreciate the freedom to homeschool we now have in America and will be building our new life here," said Uwe Romeike, who came to the United States with his wife and five children in August 2008 and settled in eastern Tennessee.
"This judge understood the case perfectly," added Mike Donnelly, staff attorney and director of international relations for HSLDA.
"We hope this decision will cause Germany to stop persecuting homeschoolers," he stated.
According to the Alliance Defense Fund, which supported HSLDA in the Romeikes' case, Germany is the only European country that has outright criminal bans on homeschooling.
A board member of the Netzwerk Bildungsfreiheit, an organization working for freedom for homeschoolers, said that Tuesday's ruling would be helpful to homeschoolers in Germany.