GOP pressures Holder to grant asylum to Germans who want to homeschool kids

On May 14, the Sixth Circuit Court in Cincinnati sided with the Justice Department. Lawyers for the Romeike family said Tuesday they would appeal this ruling.

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"A decision to deny the Romeikes the opportunity to educate their children freely is a decision to abandon our commitment to freedom," members wrote to Holder. "Doing so would put America alongside those countries that believe children belong to the community or state."

The letter added that the United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights recognizes that parents have a "prior right" over governments to choose how their children are educated. It argued that Germany is ignoring these rights by forcing the family to attend school under the threat of fines.

The letter was led by Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.), and signed by 26 others, all Republicans.

The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) said Tuesday that it would appeal the Sixth Circuit's decision and welcomed the congressional letter.

"The Romeikes are doing the exact same thing the Pilgrims did hundreds of years ago, and they need to see there are still people in our government who care for this essential American ideal," HSLDA Chairman Michael Farris said.

HSLDA has also started a White House petition calling for asylum for the Romeike family, which now has 120,000 signatures.

The Romeike family left Germany in 2008 after being found in violation of Germany's laws requiring all children to attend public school. The Romeikes feared public schooling would influence their children against Christian values, and sought asylum in the United States.

An immigration judge initially approved this request, but the Board of Immigration Appeals overturned that decision.

The decision in the Sixth Circuit case, Romeike v Holder, indicated that it may be up to Congress, not a court, to change the law to allow families like the Romeikes to win asylum in the United States.

"Congress might have written the immigration laws to grant a safe haven to people living elsewhere in the world who face government strictures that the United States Constitution prohibits," the decision said. "But it did not."

That decision, written by Judge Jeffrey Sutton, agreed with the Justice Department that families are not facing "persecution" under Germany's school attendance laws.

"One normally does not think of government officials persecuting their citizens when they enforce a law that applies equally to everyone, including the allegedly persecuted group and the officials themselves," Sutton wrote.

As written, U.S. law dealing with asylum applies only to people with a "well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion." The Romeikes argue that they are part of a group of people designated as "homeschoolers," but Sutton dismissed that designation because the law applies equally to all.

"As the Board of Immigration Appeals permissibly found, the German authorities have not singled out the Romeikes in particular or homeschoolers in general for persecution," he wrote. "As a result, we must deny the Romeikes' petition for review and, with it, their applications for asylum."