A German home-schooling family has won asylum in the US when an immigration judge ruled that the family had a “well-founded fear of persecution” in their home country.
Uwe and Hannelore Romeike have five children and were music teachers in their home town of Bissingen in southern Germany. The Romeikes, who are Evangelical Christians, were worried about the government approved curriculum and school environment and in 2006 they took their three oldest kids out of school.
The couple said that in the past 10 years the curriculum in Germany has been more against Christian values and explained that the children were having problems with bullying, peer pressure, and violence.
In Germany school is compulsory and the Romeikes were fined $10,000 for refusing to send their children to school. Police also took the children to school when the couple did not want to comply with German law. In 2008 the Romeikes worried that they could be arrested or lose custody of their children, and the family fled to the United States and moved to Morristown, Tennessee. Once the couple was settled in their new community, they applied for asylum claiming that they would be persecuted if sent back to Germany.
Lawrence O. Burman, a federal immigration judge in Memphis, granted the family political asylum. In his decision, Burman explained that the German family would face persecution because of their religious beliefs and because they’re part of a specific social group (those who choose to home-school their children) – two standards needed to grant asylum.
Defining a social group based on home-schooling is a new concept, but Prof. Philip G. Schrag, the director of Georgetown Law School’s asylum law program, said that given the penalties and possible consequences the Romeikes would face in Germany the characterization “does not seem far outside the margin.”
Immigration and Customs Enforcement has appealed the decision. The Romeikes have said that they would like to return to Germany if the laws can somehow allow them to home-school their children.
If the decisions is upheld, persecution of parents who decide to home-school their children could become a new criteria for granting political asylum.
Source: New York Times