|Wade Payne/AP Photo|
Why the concerns for the Romeike family and not for other struggling immigrants? Perhaps because many American homeschoolers see themselves in the Romeikes - they are a white, Christian family with, originally, five children (now seven children).
The Romeikes are an interesting story for homeschoolers, but also for those who follow religious freedom, education, and politics. If you're new to the Romeike case, here's some background information for you:
Uwe and Hanalore Romeike desired to educate their five children at home in Germany, where homeschooling is illegal (BBC). Homeschooling was outlawed in Germany in 1938, under the rule of the Nazi party (The Brussels Journal).*
In Germany, homeschooling families can be fined, imprisoned, and have their children removed from their home. Both German and European courts maintain that “Schools represented society, and it was in the children’s interest to become part of that society. The parents’ right to education did not go as far as to deprive their children of that experience” (The Brussels Journal).
The Romeikes believed that sending their children to school "engendered a negative attitude toward family and parents and would tend to turn their children against Christian values."
So, was coming to America the Romeike's only choice?
No. Comparing the list of European Union countries (amongst which citizens can move between much like Americans can move between states, European Commission) to the list of European countries that legally permit homeschooling, the Romeikes had many new homes to chose from - the United Kingdom, Italy, France, Belgium, Ireland. Some of these countries even, unlike the United States, give constitutional rights to homeschooling.
While Germany was not permitting the Romeikes to homeschool, Germany was not stopping them from practicing their Christian faith nor was Germany preventing them from moving within the EU. The family could have, with much less dramatics, moved to Belgium and homeschooled peacefully and legally.
So, why did they come to American and clog up our legal system and spend your tax dollars?
Thank Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA).
Really, "The thought was that sponsoring an asylum application for a German homeschooling family would allow the light of truth to shine on this problem with American and German public officials. A successful asylum application would also provide a path to safety for German families to escape persecution by immigrating to the United States. HSLDA is sponsoring a similar process in Canada" (HSLDA).
HSLDA made this our country's problem just to stir crap up.
They lured this family across an ocean with promises of political asylum in 2009. They did get it in 2010 (NY Times) when a judge decided that homeschoolers were part of a "members of a particular social group." Then, they didn't get it in 2013 (CBN) when the Justice Department ruled that "homeschooling is not a fundamental right." On appeal, they didn't get it again on March 3 when the Supreme Court refused to hear the case and faced deportation (CNN). Less than 24 hours later, however, they were told by the Department of Homeland Security, that they are welcomed in the country indefinitely (ABC News).
I repeat, the Romeike family could have legally skipped out of Germany and relocated to Italy, the United Kingdom, France, etc. and all this messy American stuff could have been avoided.
Why does it matter if this family gets asylum?
To be granted asylum, an asylum attorney must prove that their client(s) fall into at least one of five protected categories: race, religion, nationality, particular social group or political opinion, or religion (NPR).
If the whole European Union outlawed homeschooling, then I would be open to the argument that the Romeikes fall under a "particular social group or political opinion." But plenty of EU countries permit and protect homeschooling.
It's not so dissimilar to marriage equality in this country. Illinois won't marry a woman and her fiancee, but California will - does that mean they move across the ocean to the United Kingdom to seek political asylum? I think my congressman and senator are persecuting my views in Washington D.C. Do I move to Australia to escape this? It's stupid, of course not, I either stay put and fight for my rights or I move to a different congressional district or state that better represents and protects me.
There are people who don't have access to any education, clean water, or food. There are people who are killed for being the wrong shade of brown, for being born into the wrong religion or social group. There are women whose genitalia are mutilated for the sake of tradition and purity. The asylum process is long, messy, and time consuming. There are people who desperately need it, and to take time, attention, and resources away from them to pursue cases like the Romeikes is reprehensible.
But the Romeikes?
People who could have moved just 65 miles west of their hometown and homeschooled legally?**
These people do not need my country's protection.
I don't even really blame the Romeikes, and I don't blame the American homeschoolers who loudly supported the efforts. I think both were swindled by the HSLDA. I blame HSLDA, by making this America's problem, the HSLDA abused the Romeikes and the hearts of American homeschoolers.
Why say all this?
The Romeikes are staying, the Department of Homeland Security says so, but I needed to say all this, because I don't want good, kind people believing every word published and every case pursued by the HSLDA is well-intentioned.
Also, if you found compassion for the Romeikes, I hope that compassion spreads to other people who are in this country seeking safety and freedom.
Ask yourself: Would you have cared so much about a Muslim homeschooling family? What about a single mom homeschooling her children? How about two dads homeschooling their child? What about other people who risked death, knowing that a meager life in America is still better than any life they could scrape together in their homeland? Would you care this much about people with whom you have little to nothing in common?
*Some believe that this fact alone means the ban shouldn't have any value, but we still drive Volkswagens and use the Autobahn and respect animal conservation efforts (all things the Nazis started, ListServ), so under whom the ban began seems irrelevant.
**According to Google Maps, it is 65 miles from Bissingen, Germany (the Romeike's hometown) to Lauterbourg, France - by car, it's about 1 hour and 11 minutes.