In a unprecedented, and somewhat unexpected decision, an immigration judge in granted asylum to a family from jury, finding that “homeschoolers 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.”
Germany is one of the few countries in the world where it is illegal to home-school children. The rationale behind this law, as stated by government officials and court cases, is to ensure that children from different backgrounds are properly integrated.
The Romeikes are devout Christians, felt very strongly about educating their children is a different environment; specifically, they wanted to keep their children away from the rowdy classrooms of public schools, where teachers first priority was controlling the classroom, not teaching the students. They also questioned the material to be studied, saying there were too many glorified stories of troublesome children being treated as heroes, setting bad examples. However, the family wants to make it clear that they are not “fundamentalist religious nuts,” who only wish to teach their children the bible. They insist that they want their children to learn the truth about what is going on in the world. Their main concern is ensuring their children get the best education they possibly can, and they just don’t feel that the school system in Germany, neither public nor private, is a venue where that is possible.
In order to successfully obtain asylum status, the applicant(s) must argue that they are members of a distinct group who face persecution by the government because of a fundamental belief or trait they have, such as in this case, by being members in a particular group. The court found that indeed, the Romeikes faced persecution at the hands of the government based on their opposition to the government policy of not allowing home-schooling, and by being home-schooled, this qualifies them as members of a distinct group, a group that has never previously been recognized for asylum purposes. The element of persecution at the hands of the government was based on the severe penalties imposed by the government for those that were found to guilty of home-schooling, which could be as severe as fines up to $11,000, or even losing custody of their children.
So, now the family is free to live in the United States, and educate their children how they see fit, a constitutional right the Unites States Supreme Court has declared as fundamental.