DOJ seeks deportation of family persecuted in Germany for homeschooling

From William Jacobson at Legal Insurrection, we learn about the case of Uwe and Hannelore Romeike and their children:

The Romeikes are devout Christians from Germany who wanted to homeschool their children because of what they perceived as the secularist agenda in German public schools. In the United States, the right to homeschool ones’ own children is accepted, although frequently mocked by the left. The homeschoool movement is thriving in the United States, but in Germany it is illegal, a holdover from Nazi-era law.

The Romeikes fled to the United States in 2008 after they faced mounting fines and the potential of imprisonment. The Romeikes sought asylum, and were granted that asylum by Immigration Judge Lawrence O. Burman in a January 26, 2010 decision after a hearing which included not only the Romeikes but also expert witnesses on homeschooling in Germany.

What kind of persecution did this devout Christian family face in Germany? Here is some of what the immigration judge found:

October 9, 2006, [the Romeikes] got a letter from the mayor informing them that they would suffer a fine of about $45 per child, per day, and if necessary, the government would use force. The Romeikes ignored that. On October 20, 2006, two armed police officers came to the house to take the children to school. This produced a very upsetting scene for the children, the children were crying and were upset, as the three children that were of school age were herded off to go to school. Apparently, the police had no warrant or other authorization to do this, however, the Romeikes were not aware that they had any basis to resist legally, so they allowed the children to go to school. However, Mrs. Romeike retrieved the children at lunch hour.

On October 23, 2006, the police appeared in force this time to take the children to school. However, the neighborhood apparently had been alerted and neighbors blocked the police from taking action. At that point, the government backed off for a while, obviously they were not sure what to do. Apparently these situations are fairly rare and apparently had not occurred in this town previously.

In December of 2006, the government began to get tough, they informed the Romeikes that the children must attend school and there would be a fine of about $672 initially, which would only escalate in the future if they continued to resist.

Also the mayor informed them that in addition to the fines, which would escalate, that they might lose custody of the children. There is a social work organization, in Germany called the Jugendamt, which apparently means youth office in German, and they have the authority to remove children from parents under certain circumstances.

Respondents did go to Court over this and explained the situation. The Judge did not accept their explanation, he found them guilty of not sending their children to school, which is a crime.

Respondents took various legal measures over the ensuing months and they were not successful at any level. They faced escalating fines which would eventually be more than they could afford to pay. The applicant makes about 12,000 Euros a month, and the family had been fined about 7,000 Euros at the time they left the country and the fines would only increase. If they were not able to pay the fines, they also stood to lose their property, but most importantly, they stood to lose custody of their children, and that was their main fear. There also is a possibility that they could have been sent to jail as these are criminal statutes.

As to the law applied against the Romeikes, the Judge noted:

[T]his law has not always existed in Germany, it was enacted in 1938, when Adolph Hitler and the Nazi Party was in power in Germany, and it was enacted specifically to prevent parents from interfering with state control of their children, and we all know what kind of state control Hitler had in mind. It certainly was not for the good of the children, not even facial.

Now obviously Germany has changed since 1938. Germany is a Democratic country, Germany is an ally of the United States, and Germany does provide due process of law. However, this one incidence of Nazi legislation appears to still be in full force and effect, and that is the situation that Mr. Donnelly described, and the Romeikes fear.

Moreover, the law has produced outcomes more akin to a totalitarian state than a Democratic country:

[In] the case of Melissa Vusekros. . .when her parents kept her out of school, she was treated as if she had a psychiatric affliction known as school phobia and she was actually placed in an asylum for the mentally ill while she was tested. This frankly is reminiscent of the Soviet Union treating political opposition as a psychiatric problem, not only a human rights violation, it is a misuse of the psychiatric profession….

Nor are the shades of totalitarianism entirely accidental:

Mr. Donnelly [an expert witness] described the judicial decisions, in Germany, not so much being interested in the welfare of the children, as being interested in stamping out groups that want to run a parallel society, and apparently there is a fair amount of vitriol involved in this attempt to stamp out these parallel societies.

Unfortunately, the U.S. government appealed the ruling granting asylum to the Romeikes, and the Immigration Board of Appeal reversed Judge Burman’s decision. That tribunal found that “there is no indication that [the actions taken against the family] are motivated by anything other than law enforcement.”

[The Romeikes] have not shown that their religion, their religious-based desire to homeschool, or their status as homeschoolers is a central reason that the compulsory school attendance law was or will be enforced enforced against them….

Having not shown any pretext in the enforcement of the compulsory school attendance law against them, the applicants did not establish a well-founded fear of persecution or the higher threshold of a clear probablility of persecution. Accordingly, we will sustain the DHS’s appeal, and order the applicants’ removal from the United States to Germany.

Thus, what Americans traditionally would have deemed a clear case of persecution becomes, to the current left-liberal way of thinking, “law enforcement.” I can’t help but wonder what other infringements on liberty will one day soon be shrugged off as mere law enforcement.

Let’s give Professor Jacobson the final word:

The legal arguments turn on the religious component of homeschooling in Germany. Judge Burman clearly made factual findings based on testimony which supported the Romeikes’ asylum application, only to have those findings disregarded by the Immigration Board of Appeal based on more generalized notions of the German system. This could prove a decisive factor.

What is important for now is the somewhat shocking situation faced by homeschoolers in Germany, and the lengths to which the government will go to enforce its will. There’s a lesson there.

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