The U.S. Department of Homeland Security will not deport a Southern Baptist family from Germany that sought asylum in the United States so they could home school their children. The government’s reversal came one day after the Supreme Court declined to hear the Romeike family’s case – a decision that could have led to their deportation.
The government did not explain why they decided not to send the family back to Germany.
“This is an incredible victory that I can only credit to Almighty God. I also want to thank those who spoke up on this issue—including that long ago White House petition,” said Michael Farris, chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association. “We believe that the public outcry made a huge impact. What an amazing turnaround—in just 24 hours.”
Uwe Romeike said he is extremely grateful for the support and welcome he has received from America.
“We are happy to have indefinite status even though we won’t be able to get American citizenship any time soon,” he said. “As long as we can live at peace here, we are happy. We have always been ready to go wherever the Lord would lead us—and I know my citizenship isn’t really on earth. This has always been about our children. I wouldn’t have minded staying in Germany if the mistreatment targeted only me—but our whole family was targeted when German authorities would not tolerate our decision to teach our children—that is what brought us here.”
In recent days, evangelical Christians around the nation have expressed outrage at the Obama administration’s assault on the family. Lawmakers and clergy alike had said anything short of asylum could lead to civil disobedience.
“It may require civil disobedience with this bunch,” said Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), who represents the east Tennessee congressional district where the Romeike family lives.
“I am furious about this,” the congressman told me. “You’ve got law-abiding people who did everything right who simply want to home school their kids. We used to be that great shining city on a hill. There’s some rust on that city if we are doing free people this way.”
Roe was among many Tennesseans outraged over the Supreme Court decision not to hear the Romeike’s appeal to stay in the United States. The Christian couple sought asylum in 2008 after they fled Germany so they could home school their children.
The family was initially granted asylum, but the Obama administration objected – claiming that German laws that outlaw homeschooling do not constitute persecution.
“The goal in Germany is for an open, pluralistic society,” The Justice Department wrote in a 2013 legal brief. “Teaching tolerance to children of all backgrounds helps to develop the ability to interact as a fully functioning citizen in Germany.”
Rep. Roe told me the Justice Department needs to “butt out.”
“I don’t know what the Germans are thinking, but we’re not Germany,” he said. “I don’t want to be Germany. I don’t want to be Europe. I want to be America. And right now we’re not acting very much like the America I know with the administration we have.”
Roe called Attorney General Eric Holder “one of the most dangerous people in the country” and called his department’s assault on the Romeike family “appalling and worrisome.”
“I don’t see this as a Democrat or Republican issue,” he said. “It’s an issue of religious freedom. By golly, if we don’t stand for what, what do we stand for?”
Michael Farris, the chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association, is representing the family.
Farris predicted that if the Romeikes had been deported, it would have sparked a movement among religious liberty supporters.
“If they come for this family, it’s going to ignite a movement that’s going to be the same as when they told courageous Rosa Parks to go to the back of the bus and she wouldn’t go,” Farris told me before the DHS announcement. “I think we may be approaching a similar moment in our country.”