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October 3, 2011

The Romeike Family: Still Waiting on Asylum Appeal

A law review article written by Miki Kawashima Matrician was published in the May 2011 Boston College International and Comparative Law Review and provides additional support for the Romeike family’s political asylum case. The law review article, entitled “Germany Homeschoolers as ‘Particular Social Group’: Evaluation Under Current U.S. Asylum Jurisprudence,” provides an interesting and comprehensive analysis of this controversial and unsettled aspect of U.S. asylum law. Many groups have attempted to seek asylum under the status of a “particular social group,” including abused women, individual families, taxi drivers, and gang recruits.

In January 2010, U.S. Immigration Judge Lawrence O. Burman granted the German Romeike family political asylum in large part because of their membership in the particular social group of “homeschoolers in Germany.” In a case that is the first of its kind, Burman stated 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 … and the court will grant asylum.” The Romeike family fled Germany with their children and were represented by HSLDA in their political asylum case.

The Romeikes’ case was immediately appealed by the Obama administration to the federal Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), who have had the case since July 2010 but have yet to make a final decision. In their appeal, the U.S. Government Agency for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) called homeschoolers too “amorphous” to be a “particular social group” and that “United States law has recognized the broad power of the state to compel school attendance and regulate curriculum and teacher certification” as well as the “authority to prohibit or regulate homeschooling.”

Germany officially states that homeschooling is illegal, although more than 500 children are currently homeschooled in Germany. Virtually all operate underground or face some type of court proceeding.

In her article, Matrician discusses in detail the definition and criteria of “membership in a particular social group.” In light of the evidence, she argues, the BIA should find that all German homeschoolers comprise a particular social group, regardless of whether the Romeike family successfully established a claim of well-founded fear of persecution. “Homeschoolers in Germany … are perceived as a recognizable group by their alleged persecutor, as well as by society at large—in Germany and abroad,” she concludes. “[The BIA] should strive … to provide a safe haven for those in dire straits.”

HSLDA Director of International Relations Michael Donnelly notes the article's importance:

“We have submitted the law review article as new evidence in the Romeikes’ ground-breaking case. There is a strong argument in favor of upholding Judge Burman’s decision to grant asylum to the Romeike family. We are hopeful that this new evidence will further demonstrate to the BIA that homeschoolers in Germany are members of a particular social group and that Germany’s treatment of them is persecution and therefore that they qualify for protection under U.S. asylum law.”

 More Information

Learn more about the Romeikes’ case by reading “Seeking Refuge in the Land of Liberty: The Romeikes’ Journey.”