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German Family Granted Immigration Relief to Stay in the United States

1342516_flag.jpgU.S. immigration law offers foreign nationals many different opportunities for qualifying for U.S. permanent residence (a green card). For example, a U.S. employer may sponsor a foreign worker for a permanent job position or a U.S. citizen or green card holder may sponsor certain family members.

In addition to these employment-based and family-based opportunities, U.S. law also allows foreign nationals to apply for asylum in this country. Asylum will be granted to foreign nationals if returning to their home country would place them in danger of persecution. Foreign nationals may qualify for asylum if they have a reasonable fear of persecution in their home country based upon their religion, race, political opinion, nationality, and/or membership in a particular social group.

While many asylum cases involve truly horrific crimes such as government-sponsored torture or civil wars, in 2008, a German family came to the U.S. seeking asylum based upon their credible fear of persecution due to the parents’ desire to home-school their children. Germany banned home-schooling in 1918 and all German children must attend state-recognized primary schools, whether public or private. The penalties for violating this law include hefty fines and the possibility of losing custody of the children.

The Romeike family, a devout and evangelical Christian family, had been charged with nearly $9,000 in fines and threatened with legal action by the German government because the family home-schooled their children. After the older children were forcibly walked to a German public school, the family decided to relocate to the U.S. and move to Tennessee.

Once they came to the U.S., the Romeikes were granted asylum by an immigration judge who deemed Germany’s home-school ban to be an unreasonable restriction on religious freedom. However, the Obama administration appealed the decision and challenged the determination of religious persecution. The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) agreed with the Obama administration and overturned the grant of asylum in 2012.

The 2012 BIA decision generated much controversy within the U.S. as the Romeike family received support from church groups and organizations, such as the Home School Legal Defense Association, throughout the country. These organizations created an online petition that was signed by more than 120,000 people and that asked President Obama to allow the family to stay in the United States.

The Romeike family appealed the BIA’s decision all the way to the Supreme Court. However, the Supreme Court declined to hear the case, and shortly thereafter, the Romeikes were informed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that the family would not be deported back to Germany. The DHS granted the family “deferred action” for an indefinite period of time, meaning that the U.S. government would not initiate deportation proceedings against them.

The Rant

Foreign nationals who are granted asylum in the U.S. are eligible to apply for work authorization and travel authorization, and may also apply for a green card after one year. Ultimately, asylees can even apply for U.S. citizenship.

Unfortunately for the Romeikes, their future status in the U.S. is still undetermined as deferred action is not technically an immigration status. Deferred action merely denotes that the U.S. government will not deport the family.

Continue to check back with for all immigration news updates.

Additional Blog Posts

What Employers Should Know About Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, ImmigRantings, November 28, 2012
The ‘Majority’s Majority’ and Immigration Reform, ImmigRantings, November 8, 2013