A German family that moved to the United States in order to homeschool their children will be permitted to stay in the country. Yesterday the Romeike family had received a significant legal setback that could have cleared the way for them to be deported. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of their case from the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. This exhausted all of their formal legal options could have led to their deportation. However the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) today granted the family “indefinite deferred status,” allowing them to remain in the country to continue homeschooling their children and not face deportation.
The decision from DHS is the latest chapter in a long legal situation that has continued for the Romeike’s since they first arrived in the U.S. in 2008. Homeschooling is illegal in their native Germany. The law dates from 1938 and requires that all children in the country attend public school. The Romeike’s did not want to comply with the law, arguing that it violated their personal beliefs. They wanted to homeschool their children in compliance with their interpretation of Christianity. That is what brought them to the U.S.
After arriving in the U.S. they applied for asylum based on the grounds of religious persecution. The Romeike’s claimed that Germany’s law violated their right to practice their religion and raise their children as they saw fit. They were granted asylum in 2010 with an immigration judge declaring that they would be punished for their beliefs should they be forced to return to Germany. The Obama administration however challenged the ruling. The Justice Department sought to revoke their asylum and the 6th Circuit decision was the result. The DHS decision made today will permit the German family to stay but it has been a protracted legal battle.
It looked uncertain for the Romeike family after the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of the 6th Circuit Court’s decision. The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) sharply criticized the Obama administration, arguing that they were siding against homeschooling and Christianity. They implied that with all the controversy currently surrounding immigration, it is odd for the Obama administration to “single out” a family like the Romeike’s. They also cited comments made by Attorney General Eric Holder last year that homeschooling is a privilege, not a protected right.
The response from the Obama administration is that Germany is simply enforcing its laws. Comments from the Justice Department cited Germany’s desire to “promote socialization” and that compulsory public education was a tool by which that goal could be achieved. There was concern that if a family like the Romeike’s were allowed asylum, it could delegitimize compulsory education laws that are in the public interest. The HSLDA however cited German court opinions that question whether the law there does treat homeschooling parents “unequally and harshly.”
The immediate result of this legal battle is that the Romeike’s will be permitted to remain in the U.S. and homeschool their children. The legal battle over homeschooling itself is likely to continue however as education remains a critical topic, not only in the U.S. and Germany but in many other countries as well. Questions regarding education reform tend to encompass homeschooling in one form or another and the religious and legal issues raised by the Romeike’s situation reflect that.
By Christopher V. Spencer