WASHINGTON — Members of Congress are urging the U.S. Justice Department and Attorney General Eric Holder to grant asylum to a Christian family who came to America to homeschool their children.
Representative Marlin Stutzman of Indiana is leading an effort with 26 other U.S. Congressmen to request that Holder use his authority to stop efforts to deport the Romeike family back to Germany.
As previously reported, Uwe and Hannelore Romeike fled to the United States in 2008 after German authorities demanded that they stop homeschooling their six children. Homeschooling was made illegal in the country in 1938 under the dictatorship of Adolph Hitler, and the law has never been repealed, but rather strengthened. In 2007, the German Supreme Court ruled that the country’s mandate that children be sent to public school is necessary to “counteract the development of religious and philosophically motivated parallel societies.”
German officials have been cracking down on families that keep their sons and daughters at home, and have threatened them with fines, imprisonment and even the removal of the children from the household. The Romeike children were taken from their parents for a time before fleeing to the United States for refuge.
In 2010, Memphis immigration judge Lawrence Burman granted the family asylum, stating that he believed the Romeike’s would face persecution for their faith if they returned to Germany. However, the case was later appealed to the Sixth Circuit, and the Department of Justice argued before the court that homeschooling is not a fundamental right.
“[Eric Holder’s office] argued that there was no violation of anyone’s protected rights in a law that entirely bans homeschooling,” Homeschooling Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) president Michael Farris, who is representing the family, explained to reporters. “There would only be a problem if Germany banned homeschooling for some but permitted it for others.”
Earlier this month, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the Obama administration, opining that forcing the Romeike’s to send their children to public school does not amount to persecution.
“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,” it continued. “As a result, we must deny the Romeikes’ petition for review and, with it, their applications for asylum.”
However, Representative Stutzman believes that the ruling was unjust. He penned a letter to Holder to express his firmly-held beliefs over the matter, enlisting 26 members of Congress to co-sign the correspondence.
“A decision to deny the Romeikes the opportunity to educate their children freely is a decision to abandon our commitment to freedom. Doing so would put America alongside those countries that believe children belong to the community or state,” he wrote. “A country founded on freedom should stand for the fact that they belong to their parents.”
“Under U.S. law, asylum should be granted to those experiencing persecution aimed at members of a ‘particular social group,’ which possesses an ‘immutable’ characteristic that either cannot or should not be required to be changed,” he continued. “We agree … that German homeschoolers are a particular social group who are being persecuted by their government. Although parents can change their minds about homeschooling, no parent in a free nation should be forced by the state to make that decision.”
The Congressman, and those who joined him in the letter, then asked that Holder use his authority to grant asylum to the Romeike family.
“The Romeikes fled to our country, seeking relief from high fines, removal of their children by armed police officers, and threats of prison and termination of their parental rights. If forced to return to Germany, they will certainly face renewed persecution,” the letter stated. “As Americans, we have an obligation to stand with those who seek freedom. The Romeike family should find a welcoming home in the United States.”
Among those who co-signed the letter were Representatives Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania, Jeff Duncan of South Carolina, Bill Huizenga of Michigan, Lee Terry of Nebraska, Steve Stockman of Texas, Daniel Webster of Florida and Tim Huelskamp of Kansas.
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