Aug 14, 2013

Romeikes don't have to return to Germany

The German homeschooling family seeking asylum in the United States, arguing that homeschoolers should be treated as a protected class under immigration law, may soon be deported. Currently, the Home School Legal Defense Association is appealing the case to the Supreme Court. If the court declines to hear the case or if it is heard and Uwe and Hannelore Romeike lose, they and their family will have to leave the US.

That doesn't mean they have to go back to Germany, however.

Most of the conservative, Christian and homeschooling-friendly news outlets that have reported on this case have published lightly rewritten press releases from the legal association defending the Romeikes. They have repeated the claim that if the Romeikes are deported, they will be forced to return to Germany. In Germany, the Romeikes faced mounting fines and could face legal proceedings for their refusal to send their children to public or private school. According to the Home School Legal Defense Association, the family's only options are that hostile environment or US asylum.

Given that the whole legal case was orchestrated by HSLDA as a test case to affect US law, and as part of an international expansion strategy, and given that the organization has used the case to raise awareness and funds in the US, the group is not an unbiased source of information.

On this, the HSLDA is wrong.

For one thing, the Romeikes would likely be allowed "voluntary departure."

Certain sorts of immigrants and asylum seekers qualify for voluntary departure, the official version of the process sometimes popularly known as "self-deportation." If they lose their last appeal, or are denied a hearing by the highest court, the family would likely qualify. They would, in that case, file paperwork showing they are leaving of their own according, and then they'd leave.

If they do that, they could go wherever they want.

There are many countries around the world where homeschooling is legal, and the Romeike's could apply for visas or asylum in many of those countries. They could go to Australia, New Zealand, or South Africa, for example, where there are an estimated 30,000 children are already being homeschooled.

If the Romeike's don't qualify for voluntary departure or for some other reason are deported, and physically put on a plane to Germany, they still have options. No one would force them to live in Germany. And they are European Union citizens. As such, they're entitled to move freely in the EU, and there are a number of countries there which protect parents' rights to homeschool.

In Belgium, Ireland and Italy, homeschooling is protected by the constitution. In the Netherlands, homeschooling for religious reasons is a protected right. In Finland, Norway, France and Denmark, one can homeschool with certain regulations. Even if the Romeike's want to stay in a German-speaking country, they could go to Austria, where "häuslichen Unterrich" is legal, if not common. That's not even considering Central and Eastern Europe.

The Romeikes are fighting to stay in the US. They're entitled to that fight. The HSLDA is advocating for homeschoolers, which is what they are supposed to do. This repeated claim that if they lose this case the family will have to go back to Germany is wrong, though.

It's misinformation, promulgated as part of a public relations campaign.