In a deeply disturbing notice, the United States Government Agency for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has lodged an appeal of Judge Lawrence Burman’s grant of asylum to the Romeike family. The appeal was sent to the Board of Immigration Appeals in Fairfax, Virginia on February 25. In it, the 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.”

On January 26, Judge Burman granted the Romeikes asylum after determining that the German government’s treatment of homeschoolers was “repellent to everything we believe as Americans,” and that Germany was denying the family “basic human rights.” The judge determined that the German state’s policy of imposing increasing and potentially crushing fines, the loss of custody of children, and possible criminal prosecution over homeschooling amounted to persecution. However, ICE pointed to the denial of an application in the European Court of Human Rights in the Konrad case as evidence that “the public education laws of Germany do not violate basic human rights.” ICE criticized Judge Burman for “improvidently disregard[ing]” the decision of the ECHR. In other words, it appears that ICE is arguing that U.S. judges should follow international law—rather than U.S. law.

Michael Smith, president of HSLDA, says that American courts should only rely on American law.

“American judges should use American law alone in making decisions about cases in American courts,” Smith said. “Polls show that Americans by an overwhelming margin reject the idea of using international law in American courts to decide American cases. The use of international law in American courts is a threat to American justice and should be opposed.”

In its appeal, ICE argues that the U.S. government has the authority to simply prohibit homeschooling, and this should disqualify the granting of asylum. ICE further asserts that Germany’s harsh treatment of homeschoolers is mere prosecution, not persecution. ICE lawyers wrote that “[e]ven were such fear[s] objectively reasonable, these sanctions would only amount to prosecution.” ICE argues that the judge’s ruling is “speculative” because sanctions had been applied in a “limited number of circumstances” and that the Romeikes had failed to “make any effort to locate an acceptable alternative school.” These claims were fully argued in the first Romeike hearing and shown to be false. ICE also noted parenthetically that the “Immigration Judge did not address how under various state laws of the United States a person can be similarly prosecuted for not sending one’s children to school.”

HSLDA Staff Attorney and Director of International Relations Michael Donnelly, who will continue to coordinate the Romeike family’s legal defense in this case, said he was not surprised by the actions of ICE or the arguments they presented.

“It is disappointing but not surprising that ICE has appealed,” Donnelly said. “Judge Burman appropriately noted that homeschooling is legal in all fifty states, and his decision reflects U.S. law which upholds the right of parents to direct the education and upbringing their children as an enduring American tradition, entitling the family to protection from persecution. ICE argues that Germany’s denial of a parent’s right to homeschool for any reason is acceptable. It is shameful that ICE, and by extension the U.S. Government, supports the persecution of German homeschoolers.”