Lessons from a German Homeschooling Family about the Nanny State
The saga of a German homeschooling family represents a needed refresher course about the true origins of our fundamental rights.
Uwe and Hannelore Romeike, along with their seven children, were on track to be deported from the United States. What was their high crime and misdemeanor? Drug trafficking? Gun running? Cybercrime?
No—it was homeschooling.
Homeschooling has been illegal in Germany for nearly a century, but the Romeikes opted to school their children at home for educational and religious reasons. Faced with an imminent fear of losing custody of their children, in addition to jail time and fines, Uwe and Hannelore Romeike fled to Tennessee in 2008 with their children and sought legal asylum, which they were granted in 2010 by U.S. Immigration Judge Lawrence Burman.
That should have ended the matter, but apparently granting a homeschooling family asylum in the United States constitutes a threat of the highest order, at least according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which challenged the Romeikes’ asylum ruling.
Recall, ICE is an entity that claims its Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) directorate is “critical” and:
...responsible for investigating a wide range of domestic and international activities arising from the illegal movement of people and goods into, within and out of the United States. HSI investigates immigration crime, human rights violations and human smuggling, smuggling of narcotics, weapons and other types of contraband, financial crimes, cybercrime and export enforcement issues. ICE special agents conduct investigations aimed at protecting critical infrastructure industries that are vulnerable to sabotage, attack or exploitation.
Apparently, ICE believes when homeschoolers are detected we should dial our terror-alert color wheel all the way up to red—and head straight for the Board of Immigration Appeals, which revoked the Romeikes’ asylum in 2012 on the basis that having your children taken away by the state for educating them at home isn’t a serious threat.
But clearly homeschooling is a big threat to the Obama administration.
Last March the Home School Legal Defense Fund (HSLDF), the organization defending the Romeikes, created a White House petition asking President Obama to protect the family’s asylum. Obama declined to respond, but his Department of Justice sure went on the offensive.
In its June 26, 2013, brief to the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, Obama’s DOJ essentially argued that the German government is right to take children away from their parents and force them into government schools because “[t]eaching tolerance to children of all backgrounds helps to develop the ability to interact as a fully functioning citizen of Germany” (p. 8).
So according to the Obama administration’s handbook on functional citizenship intolerance from government somehow fosters toleration among schoolchildren. Got it.
The Romeikes lost their asylum appeal last year, and earlier this month the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear their case. Just one day later, the Department of Homeland Security suddenly reversed its opposition and informed the Romeikes they could remain in the United States indefinitely.
The DHS’ change of heart may seem like welcome news for the Romeikes this time, but it should be little consolation to lovers of liberty.
We are endowed by our Creator—not government—with certain unalienable rights, including the right of parents to educate their children as they see fit. If we forget the true origin of our rights and allow our government to defend or attack them willy-nilly, where on earth will we go for asylum?