The Obama administration is arguing in federal court that a homeschooling family from Germany should be deported back to their homeland, despite what they say is religious persecution. The German government prevented Uwe and Hannelore Romeike from teaching their five children at home instead of sending them to government-run schools, fining them and threatening to prosecute them if they don’t obey.
When they took their three oldest children out of school in 2006, police showed up at their house within 24 hours, only leaving after a group of supporters showed up and organized a quick protest.
But their legal troubles were just beginning. Germany began fining the family, ultimately racking up a bill of more than 7,000 Euros ($9,000).
After they fled to the United States in 2010, the Romeike family initially were granted political asylum and found a home in Tennessee. They had a sixth child. But then U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) appealed the asylum decision in 2012.
The federal Board of Immigration Appeals sided with the government despite a 2011 policy that gives the government broad discretion to pursue only high-priority cases.
ICE would not provide details about the case, or its reasons for pursuing the Romeikes.
‘We do not comment on pending litigation,’ ICE public affairs officer Brandon Montgomery told MailOnline.
The Home School Legal Defense Association sued the US Department of Justice because a judge in that agency’s Executive Office for Immigration Review was responsible for the decision.
A three-judge panel in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear the case of Romeike v. Holder on April 23.
Michael Farris, that organization’s founding chairman, told MailOnline in a telephone interview that the even if the federal government doesn’t believe home schooling is a human rights issue that qualifies for political asylum, it can still let the family remain in the US and home school their children.
‘The attorney general absolutely has the discretion to let these people stay,’ Farris said of the devoutly Christian family.
‘I really wonder what would’ve happened to the Pilgrims under this administration,’ he said recently on the Fox News Channel.
Christopher Bentley, a Tennessee spokesman for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, an arm of the Department of Homeland Security, said his agency was involved in the case early on.
‘I can’t talk about any asylum cases in particular,’ he cautioned, ‘but our office would have responsibility for initially determining whether they qualified for asylum in the United States.’
‘We’re the first step in establishing “credible fear,” and then making a determination of whether they qualify for asylum in the United States. They have to claim that their government can’t protect them from persecution because they’re part of a specific group. That’s the basis for any asylum grant.’
‘We, the undersigned, respectfully request that the Obama Administration grant full and permanent legal status to Uwe and Hannelore Romeike and their children,’ the petition reads. If it attracts 100,000 signatures by April 18, it will trigger a response from the administration
At the point where the Romeikes were granted asylum, the Department of Homeland Security was off the case. But after the Board of Immigration Review heard the case and overturned the asylum ruling, DHS re-entered the picture, since it’s the agency charged with enforcing immigration judges’ decisions.