While the White House and many lawmakers push to grant legal status to immigrants who crossed the border illegally, the Romeike family thought they followed the rules -- but now face deportation.
They are devout Catholics who emigrated from Germany in 2008 to home school their six children in Tennessee. As Uwe Romeike told Fox News, it is illegal to do that in Germany.
"We don't have the freedom to home school our children in Germany," Romeike told Fox News.
The U.S. granted the Romeikes political asylum, but in 2010 the Justice Department intervened, ruling that home-schooling could not be used as grounds to seek citizenship.
The department has ordered the Romeikes be deported. "Now it means same thing as in Germany," Uwe Romeike said with a chuckle.
The family is appealing the ruling. Their case set for April 23 before the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.
The Home School Legal Defense Association will represent them. It sees their denial of asylum as a fundamental threat to freedom. "In this particular case there is an equivalency between human rights standards and our constitutional rights. If our government takes the position that home-schooling is not a human right for the Romeike case to give them the basis of asylum, then it may not be a constitutional right for them as well," said Michael Farris of the HSLDA.
Immigration experts differ as to whether the Romeike's situation meets the criteria for asylum here.
David Abraham, a professor at the University of Miami Law School, said: "Germany, a democratic country, has chosen not to permit home schooling as one of the options. Germans have a chance to change that through their legislature. In the meantime, it doesn't exist and it is not persecution."
But Thomas Dupree, a Bush administration Justice Department lawyer disagrees. "The administration has a wide variety of options at their disposal that range from granting asylum to deferring any kind of action to remove these people," he said.
A petition on the White House website to grant the family permanent legal status has garnered over 100,000 signatures -- a threshold that typically triggers comment from the administration. A recording on that website tells visitors, "If a petition gets enough signatures White House staff will review it, ensure it's sent to the appropriate policy experts, and issue an official response."
Home-schoolers in Germany face not just fines, but the potential removal of children from their parents' custody. That is a level of punishment the Romeikes say rises to persecution.