Jan. 28, 2010 — -- A German family who claims they were repeatedly harassed for home schooling their five children were granted political asylum in the United States in what some are calling an unprecedented move by a U.S. immigration judge.
Uwe Romeike and his family fled to Memphis, Tenn., in August 2008, after years of what they argued was persecution over their desire to pull their children out of public and private schools and home school them. Now, less than two years later, the family will be permitted to stay in the United States and apply for citizenship.
"The Romeikes are Christians who believe as a matter of conscience that their faith requires them to teach their own children," said Mike Donnelly, the family's attorney who is also the director of international relations of the Home School Legal Defense Association, a nonprofit advocacy organization that works on behalf of parents' constitutional rights.
The lawyer said he doesn't believe an asylum case centered on home schooling has ever before been granted.
Political asylum in the United States is only granted if an individual can prove they were persecuted for at least one of five reasons: race, political opinion, nationality, religion and membership of a social group.
A transcript of the court proceedings were not immediately available, but Donnelly said that Judge Lawrence Burman stated in his opinion that he was granting the Romeikes political asylum because he believed they had been persecuted because of their religion as well as their membership in a social group, in their case a group of home schooling parents.
"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," said Burman, "And the court will grant asylum."