Uwe and Hannelore Romeike are not like other asylum seekers, people fleeing war or torture in places like Afghanistan, Iraq or Somalia. They're music teachers from a village in southern Germany. And yet, in what appears to be the first case of its kind, the couple and their five children were granted asylum in the U.S. last week by an immigration judge who ruled that they had a "well-founded fear of persecution" in their home country for engaging in what has become a popular albeit somewhat controversial American practice — homeschooling their children.
The Romeikes, who are Evangelical Christians, took their three eldest children out of school in the town of Bissingen in 2006 because they were concerned about the impact the government-approved curriculum and the public-school environment would have on their social development. "Over the past 10 to 20 years, the curriculum in public schools in Germany has been more and more against Christian values, and my eldest children were having problems with violence, bullying and peer pressure. It's important for parents to have the freedom to choose the way their children can be taught," Uwe Romeike said in a statement provided by the couple's attorney, Michael Donnelly of the Virginia-based Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA).
It's as much religious freedom as educational freedom, so the last lines of the story intrigued me greatly:
The ruling is sure to ignite passions on both sides of the debate — and may spur other parents around the world to follow the Romeikes' lead. If this happens, the U.S. could see a flood of a new type of refugees —educational asylum seekers.
With the kinds of jobs current immigrants tend to seek drying up, we've seen a slackened rate of immigration from places like Mexico in the last year or so. Might this ruling indeed spur a new kind of immigrant? It all comes as a surprise to me, as I had viewed American homeschoolers as a sort of hassled bunch. Apparently 'hassled' and 'freedom' continue to be relative terms. Good to know we're more free, and at least for one family, a destination.