Purcellville, Virginia — Tens of thousands of Americans have signed a petition the White House to grant asylum to a German family that risks deportation for seeking to come to America to find the freedom to homeschool their children.
The Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) is just 15,000 signatures shy of bringing its request before the White House, as the Obama administration responds to only those petitions that gather at least 100,000 signatures within a 30-day period. As of press time, the petition had nearly 85,000 signatures. It has until April 18th — 10 days — to meet the minimum requirement.
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was made illegal in the country in 1938 under the dictatorship of Adolph Hitler, and the law has never been repealed, but rather strengthened.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.
“[The law is] utterly repellent to everything we believe as Americans,” Burman ruled. “[H]omeschoolers are a particular social group that the German government is trying to suppress. This family has a well-founded fear of persecution … therefore, they are eligible for asylum … and the court will grant asylum.”
The Romeike’s were overjoyed at the ruling, which was achieved with the help of the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). However, the case was appealed to the Sixth Circuit, and the U.S. Justice Department is now fighting to have the family returned to Germany, stating 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,” HSLDA president Michael Farris explained to reporters. “There would only be a problem if Germany banned homeschooling for some but permitted it for others.”
“The U.S. government contended that the Romeikes’ case failed to show that there was any discrimination based on religion because, among other reasons, the Romeikes did not prove that all homeschoolers were religious, and that not all Christians believed they had to homeschool,” he continued. “[Holder] does not understand that religious freedom is an individual right.”
Therefore, HSLDA is now petitioning the White House to take action and to listen to the voices of the American people.
“We, the undersigned, respectfully request that the Obama administration grant full and permanent legal status to Uwe and Hannelore Romeike and their children,” it begins. “The Romeikes, a homeschooling family represented by HSLDA, were granted asylum in 2010 because Germany persecutes homeschoolers with fines, criminal prosecution, and forcible removal of children from their families.”
“Every state in the United States of America recognizes the right to homeschool, and the U.S. has the world’s largest and most vibrant homeschool community. Regrettably, this family faces deportation in spite of the persecution they will suffer in Germany,” it continues. “The Romeikes hope for the same freedom our forefathers sought. Please grant the privilege of liberty to the Romeike family.”
The petition has until April 18th to gather at least 100,000 signatures before the White House will respond. The Obama administration notes on its website, however, that response does not guarantee approval of a request.