After 15 years of residing in the US, the Romeike family, originally from Germany, faces imminent deportation. The family had initially sought asylum in the US to homeschool their children, an action that is effectively banned under German law.
In 2014, the Obama administration’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS) granted “deferred action” status to the Romeike family, who were concerned about the influence of Germany’s public school system on their children’s personalities and family values. Without any prior notice, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officer informed the family this month that they had four weeks to apply for German passports, ahead of their planned deportation. No explanation for the abrupt change in policy was provided.
Uwe Romeike, the family patriarch, described the emotional and logistical turmoil that the family would face if deported: “Deportation would tear the family apart,” he said. Uwe and his wife, Hannelore, fled from Bissingen, Germany with their then-five children, violating the country’s strict education laws by choosing to homeschool their kids. Uwe Romeike stated that their children’s “whole personalities changed” and they suffered health problems after attending public schools. Court documents also cited issues with textbook content that ran counter to their religious beliefs as evangelical Christians.
Initially, a Tennessee immigration judge granted asylum to the family in 2010, but this decision was later overturned. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the Romeikes, stating that they failed to demonstrate that German authorities enforcing the school attendance law amounted to “persecution”. The US Supreme Court declined to review the case, but the family was allowed to stay under an indefinite deferred action status granted by DHS.
Today, the family is well-integrated into their Tennessee community. Two of the Romeike’s adult children are married to American citizens, and Uwe Romeike works as a piano accompanist. “We are no financial burden for the government. We pay our taxes, we contribute to society and in the community,” Uwe added.
Critics argue that the move to deport the Romeike family is ill-timed and poorly prioritised, given the rising number of illegal immigrants entering the US. Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee) pointed out this inconsistency in a recent letter to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, questioning why immigration authorities have targeted a family “who has built their lives in Tennessee within the legal parameters of our immigration system”.
Legal experts have posited that the slow pace of the family’s deportation case might be because authorities deemed it a low priority. However, the Romeike family’s plight has received significant public attention, with a petition from the Home School Legal Defense Association garnering over 70,000 signatures urging the Biden administration to reinstate their deferred status.
Image credit: Lydia Romeike Bates (Facebook)