In 2008 the Romeike family from Germany found asylum in the United States, because their country threatened to take away their children if they kept homeschooling. Now, the U.S. government threatens to deport them because it doesn’t see that homeschooling is a fundamental right. Join Mike Farris and special host Jim Mason as they share about the family’s uphill battle for asylum, today on Home School Heartbeat.
Jim Mason: Mike, can you tell us about the Romeike case, where we’re representing a family seeking asylum in the United States.
Mike Farris: The Romeike family had to leave Germany because Germany bans homeschooling. Any family there that wants to homeschool their kids is going to face threats of losing their children, heavy fines, and that’s exactly what happened to the Romeikes. On one occasion, the police showed up with a van and armed police escorted the kids out of the home and took them to the public schools. They tried it a second time but there were some bystanders that scared the police off. But this is a family that has been seriously threatened and fined and persecuted because of their religious beliefs that they want to homeschool their kids as required by God.
Jim: What’s the status of their case, Mike?
Mike: When they first arrived here in the United States, they promptly applied for political asylum and, in 2010, the first immigration judge ruled in their favor. The Obama administration appealed that ruling, took it to the Board of Immigration Appeals. That board sided with the Obama administration, and now we’ve appealed the case to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, and it’s coming up for oral argument on April the 23rd in the Sixth Circuit.
Jim: Thanks Mike. For Home School Heartbeat, I’m Jim Mason.
Jim Mason: Mike, why is the Obama administration’s position in this case so disturbing for American homeschoolers?
Mike Farris: We have to understand the basics of the law of asylum to get to the answer. There are two kinds of human rights violations that are supposed to give you the basis for an asylum claim. Either you’ve been denied individual human liberty, or you’ve been denied some equal treatment because of the group that you belong to. If Catholics are discriminated against, if homeschoolers are discriminated against—it’s a group-based right. In this case, the Obama administration has said that homeschooling is not an individual liberty; in fact, they’ve gone so broadly as to suggest that religious liberty itself is not an individual right but only a group right. If a nation discriminates against Catholics or Mormons or Baptists, maybe that would suffice but not when one individual says, “God requires me to homeschool my kids,” or “God requires me to do something else,” and the government comes down with the full force of the law. The United States recognizes individual liberty as a right. But the Obama administration is saying, no, that branch of human rights law is thrown out. We’re not going to follow that at all.
Jim: Thanks, Mike. Oral argument in this case is scheduled for April 23rd and we ask all our listeners in this special edition of Home School Heartbeat to keep the Romeike family in prayer. For Home School Heartbeat, I’m Jim Mason.
Jim Mason: Mike, the outcome of this appeal in the Sixth Circuit—how could that affect homeschoolers here in America?
Mike Farris: Well, Jim, it would be indirect, but it could set a precedent that’s very dangerous. The core question is going to be whether or not homeschooling is the exercise of a fundamental liberty that would justify an asylum claim. And while it’s going to arise in the context of international human rights standards, those standards and constitutional standards in this country are on parallel tracks, and our courts pretty much use the same basic principles to decide both of those things. And so, if this court holds that homeschooling is not a fundamental human right, it’s the same as saying, more or less, as homeschooling is not a constitutional right. And that equivalence is very dangerous. If we are going to lose our rights as homeschoolers, we’re in real trouble. And in one way it does suggest something that’s very important; all of us as homeschoolers stand together. If one nation is allowed to ban homeschooling and persecute people the way the Romeikes are being persecuted, then we are affected as well, so this is a real call for homeschoolers to stand together, no matter where our fellow homeschoolers are being persecuted.
Jim: Mike, is there something our listeners can do?
Mike: They should go to our website and link to the White House petition. That’s very important. Sign the White House petition.
Jim: Thanks, Mike. For Home School Heartbeat, I’m Jim Mason.
Jim Mason: We’re talking about the Romeike case with Mike Farris today. Mike, how do we know that Germany’s ban on homeschooling violates basic human rights?
Mike Farris: Well, human rights laws really became popularized and important to the entire community of the world as a result of the atrocities of Nazi Germany. And so the first thing that was done was to distill basic principles into the universal declaration of human rights that was done in the late 1940s—one of the first acts of the United Nations. And, in that document, it says that parents have a prior right to determine the education of their children. That means that the right of a parent comes first in time and first in importance. Those general principles were distilled into actual treaties in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. Germany is a party to both of those treaties, and both of them say parents have the right to direct the education of their children and to provide education that’s different than the public schools. The UN has appointed a special rapporteur to look at the German situation, and that rapporteur out of the human rights office says Germany is in violation of human rights standards. It’s really clear; everybody gets it except the Obama administration and Germany.
Jim: Please continue to pray for the Romeike family and for Mike Farris as he prepares for oral argument in the Sixth Circuit on April 23rd. For Home School Heartbeat, I’m Jim Mason.
Jim Mason: What can our listeners do to help the Romeikes?
Mike Farris: Well, Jim, there’s a petition on the White House website that urges the Obama administration to use its discretion to grant this family relief. Now, there’s a dispute between the parties about the meaning of the law, but there’s no dispute that the Attorney General of the United States has the discretion to interpret the law more leniently than it has. They’ve interpreted the law leniently for all kinds of classes of illegal immigrants in this country, and it doesn’t make any sense that we can’t interpret this law leniently toward this German homeschool family. Now we think it’s a straight-up application of the law; they think differently. But there’s no doubt they can say, “Well, you know what? We’re going to be lenient in this situation; we’re going to open our doors to the few homeschoolers in Germany.” There’s about 500 homeschoolers in Germany—it is not going to be a flood of people coming here if they do this. The Obama administration has taken a very hard line, and I can’t figure out why they would do that; there’s only three possible reasons. One is they hate homeschooling. Second, they hate individual religious liberty. Or, third, they’ve got some deal going on with Germany. I do pretty good job at legal analysis; I’m not so great on psychoanalysis, but it’s one of those three things, and there’s no legitimate justification for any of those answers. They should grant this family asylum.
Jim: Thanks, Mike. I’d urge all our listeners to go to homeschoolheartbeat.com. Follow the links to the White House website to allow the Romeike family to stay in America. For Home School Heartbeat, I’m Jim Mason.