A German family that unsuccessfully fought for asylum to homeschool their kids in the United States is facing deportation next month — despite living in Tennessee for 15 years with the government’s blessing.
In 2014, the Obama administration’s Department of Homeland Security granted “deferred action” status to seven members of the Romeike family, who pulled their kids from Germany’s public school system over concerns that it was warping their children’s personalities and attacked “family values.”
Yet earlier this month, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer told the family they had four weeks to apply for German passports ahead of their deportation — with zero explanation for the sudden expulsion.
Deportation “would tear the family apart,” patriarch Uwe Romeike, 52, told The Post, his voice quiet and exhausted.
The government’s sudden upending of the Romeike family’s life has come more than a decade after Uwe Romeike and his wife, Hannelore, fled Bissingen, Germany with their then-five children for violating the country’s strict education laws, which effectively bans homeschooling.
The couple, who are evangelical Christians, decided to educate their kids on their own after witnessing how their children’s “whole personalities changed” and suffered health issues while attending public school, Uwe Romeike said.
The contents of their children’s textbooks, which included concepts against their religion such as endorsing abortion and homosexuality, in addition to insulting “family values,” further soured the parent’s faith in the public schools, according to court documents.
“The content we found in there is diametrically against what we believe in,” Uwe Romeike said. “Why would you teach a child to be disrespectful to parents? Why would you trust the Devil over God?”
After being slapped with over $7,000 in fines for yanking their kids from the public school system — and having the police show up at their door to escort their children to public school — the Romeikes relocated to Morristown, Tenn., where they filed for asylum, according to court documents.
A Tennessee immigration judge granted the family asylum in 2010, but the decision was overturned and a three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled against them, with Judge Jeffrey Sutton writing that the Romeikes failed to prove how German authorities enforcing the school attendance law “amounts to persecution.”
The US Supreme Court declined to review the Romeikes’ case in 2014, but DHS granted them permission to stay under an order of supervision and indefinite deferred action.
In their decade and a half in Morristown, the Romeikes and their kids, aged 10 to 26, are well-established in their community.
Uwe and Hannalore are homeschooling their three youngest children, including two who were born in the United States, while two of their adult children are married American citizens.
“We are no financial burden for the government,” said Uwe Romeike, who has worked as a piano accompanist at nearby Carson-Newman University in Jefferson City. “We pay our taxes, we contribute to society and in the community.”
Immigration experts said the glacial pace of the Romeike’s deportation was likely because authorities deemed their case a low priority — but it was only a matter of time before the feds got around to revoking their ability to remain in the US.
Many of the family’s backers tore into the Biden administration for expending its resources on the Romeikes’ deportation, versus tracking down the more than 1.5 million migrants who illegally poured into the United States in the past three years.
“As millions of illegal immigrants flood across our southern border and disappear into our country, your immigration authorities have chosen to punish a family who has built their lives in Tennessee within the legal parameters of our immigration system,” Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee) wrote this week in a letter to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
Republican US Rep. Diana Harshbarger, whose district covers Morristown, introduced legislation that would grant the family permanent residency status.
A petition started by the Home School Legal Defense Association urging the Biden administration to reinstate their deferred status has received over 70,000 signatures so far.
“In the face of this uncertainty, and potential radical change of their lives, they’ll smile, they’ll laugh, they’ll talk to you,” said Kevin Boden, the Romeikes’ lawyer and HSLDA International director. “They have incredible resolve.”