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German homeschooling family granted temporary stay of deportation following outpouring of public support


UPDATE: The Romeike family has been given a one-year delay in their deportation by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) following a massive outreach by citizens on their behalf.

The Romeikes, who have made their home in Morristown, Tennessee, for 15 years, left their native Germany because homeschooling is illegal there. The Romeikes felt led to homeschool their children in order to instill them with their Christian values, values they believe are undermined in German schools.

On September 6, ICE told the Romeikes they would be deported in early October with no explanation. Following that, the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) started a petition for the family to be granted asylum. On October 4, HSLDA announced that 100,000 people had signed the petition, and on October 6, ICE informed the Romeikes that their deportation would be delayed one year.

According to HSLDA, the delay was the direct result of the petition, calls to government officials, and outreach to Congress from Americans concerned for the Romeikes’ ability to stay in the U.S.

U.S. Rep. Diana Harshbarger, R-Tenn., said, “I appreciate that so many East Tennesseans were among the 100,000 Americans who petitioned support. In doing so, they conveyed firsthand knowledge of the Romeikes’ contributions to our Morristown community and support of their right to homeschool their children free from persecution.”

She added, “I would also like to thank the Home School Legal Defense Association for its guidance in helping me secure this one-year stay as a stopgap, so my work to pass H.R. 5423 may continue.”

Harshbarger explained that the one-year stay will give Congress time to consider her bill, H.R. 5423, which would grant the Romeikes permanent asylum in the U.S.

Original Story

{Published September 25, 2023} After being allowed to live in the U.S. as asylum seekers for 15 years, one German family was told, allegedly without reason, that they will be sent back to Germany, the nation that fined them and threatened to take their children away for homeschooling.

In 2006, Uwe and Hannelore Romeike became convinced that they needed to homeschool their children. “Our oldest children were in school in the German public schools, and their personality literally changed. We wanted to help them to grow up in what they believed in and what we believe in and not get basically indoctrinated with something we don’t want,” Uwe said.

Specifically, the Romeikes, who have seven children, possessed two core beliefs: “a deep conviction” that they were “responsible to God for their children’s education,” and a growing concern that “the content of the German public school’s curriculum—particularly anti-Christian and sexual elements—threatened to harm their children.”

In Germany it is illegal to homeschool your children, and the government fined the Romeikes an oppressive amount that actually exceeded their income. The German government even removed the children forcibly and took them to public school. The family was threatened with the permanent removal of their children if they did not comply by sending the children to public school.

In 2008, the Romeikes applied for and received visas to move to America where they faced a legal battle over their right to stay in the U.S. federal officials argued that they had no right to stay because Germany’s law did not persecute based on any one religion. Eventually, after a petition was sent to the White House with over 120,000 signatures, the Romeikes were granted asylum and have lived In Tennessee for 15 years.

On September 6, the Romeikes were informed at a routine check with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that they must secure German passports and be deported. The Romeikes claim no documentation or reason was given, only that there had been a “change of orders.”

Since moving to the U.S., Uwe and Hannelore have had two more children and two of their German-born children, who are now adults, have married U.S. citizens. One of the adult children recently had a child of their own.

“Everything is here in America,” Uwe stated. “We don’t have any place to live there. I don’t have any work to provide for my family over there.”

If forced to return to Germany, they will face the same issues regarding homeschooling their younger children as they did 15 years ago.

The family’s attorney, Kevin Boden, expressed uncertainty as to what the family will face. Boden is with the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), which has provided assistance to the family since they first sought asylum.

Boden stated, “We just don’t know at this point, which is part of the scary nature of it,” he said. “You can imagine showing up in two weeks and not knowing, ‘Will they take me or my wife into custody and then what happens to our two minor children who are literally U.S. citizens?’ So the uncertainty of this is just remarkable.”

HSLDA president Jim Mason released a statement, saying,

“The Romeike family should be able to stay in the United States and home educate their children. America is a land of freedom and opportunity, and there are few freedoms or opportunities more important than the ability of parents to safely direct the education of their own children, without fear of punishment or persecution.”

HSLDA is sending another request to the White House, asking them to intervene. You can sign the petition here.

Why the U.S. government is seeking to expel a family seeking what should be an internationally recognized right to direct the upbringing of one’s children, even while it permits millions of illegal immigrants to storm over our border, is hard to grasp. If people who do not follow the law, and who have not been vetted in any way, are allowed to stay here indefinitely, why not a family seeking simply to homeschool their children?

The optimist may say that perhaps there was a mistake or some form of bureaucratic mix-up that can be rectified. The cynic says this is by design. Either way, enough public pressure can sway government leaders to grant this family asylum.

In addition to families lending support to the Romeike family through signing this petition, Americans need to see this situation as a warning. Our nation is much like Germany, in that it is now seeking to raise up children steeped in the state’s religion of “tolerance” and “secularism” rather than in their parents’ beliefs.

Germany’s actions and laws show that it views children as belonging to the state and that it believes that the state is the only entity that can properly educate them.

Our nation is very close to believing the same thing, as politicians, members of the media, school boards, and teachers unions insist that school choice is evil, homeschooling harms kids, and that parents should have no say in what children are taught. One court even ruled that parents don’t have the right to protect their children from pornography, while the state of Illinois passed a law that would defund school and public libraries that remove sexually explicit books from their shelves.

This is why our freedoms must be carefully guarded, and whether you homeschool your children or not, it’s time to stand up for the right of all parents to educate their children as they see fit.

The Church must be involved in public discourse and influence. That’s why we write — so our readers can be equipped to understand and pursue righteous change in the world. For more timely, informative, and faith-based content, subscribe to the Standing for Freedom Center newsletter.

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