Full StoryThe Romeikes are not your typical asylum seekers. They did not come to the U.S. to flee war or despotism in their native land. No, these music teachers left Germany because they didn't like what their children were learning in public school - and because homeschooling is illegal there.
"It's our fundamental right to decide how we want to teach our children," says Uwe Romeike, an Evangelical Christian and a concert pianist who sold his treasured Steinway to help pay for the move.
Romeike decided to uproot his family in 2008 after he and his wife had accrued about $10,000 in fines for homeschooling their three oldest children and police had turned up at their doorstep and escorted them to school. "My kids were crying, but nobody seemed to care," Romeike says of the incident.
So why did he seek asylum in the U.S. rather than relocate to nearby Austria or another European country that allows homeschooling? Romeike's wife Hannelore tells TIME the family was contacted by the Virginia-based Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), which suggested they go to the U.S. and settle in Morristown, Tenn. The nonprofit organization, which defends the rights of the U.S. homeschooling community - with its estimated 2 million children, or about 4% of the total school-age population - is expanding its overseas outreach. And on Jan. 26, the HSLDA helped the Romeikes become the first people granted asylum in the U.S. because they were persecuted for homeschooling.
The ruling is tricky politically for Washington and its allies in Europe, where several countries - including Spain and the Netherlands - allow homeschooling only under exceptional circumstances, such as when a child is extremely ill. That helps explain why in late February, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement formally appealed the Romeike ruling, which was issued by an immigration judge in Memphis, Tenn. His unprecedented decision has raised concerns that the already heavily backlogged immigration courts will be flooded with asylum petitions from homeschoolers in countries typically regarded as having nonrepressive governments.
Wow! This story is just full of controversy all the way around. There's a lot more info in the full article.