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US appeals court denies asylum to German family wanting to homeschool

The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit [official website] on Tuesday denied an appeal [opinion, PDF] by a German family seeking asylum in the US in order to homeschool their children for religious reasons. The Romeike family alleged that Germany's ban against homeschooling caused them a well-founded fear of persecution based on their membership in a "particular social group"—homeschoolers. In the opinion, Judge Jeffrey Sutton wrote that US immigration law [text] for asylum-seekers only applies for those who have a "well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion." Because the Romeike family was not persecuted in particular, nor was any homeschooling family persecuted more severely than other families breaking the law, their applications for asylum were denied. For example, families that allowed their children to skip school are punished in the same way. Because the law is applied equally to everyone, the court found that the neutral law could is not compatible with persecution. Moreover, the court found that faith-based homeschoolers are not a cognizable social group.

In January 2010 an immigration judge granted [JURIST report] the Romeikes asylum, ruling that German laws against homeschooling [HSLDA backgrounder] gave the family a well-founded fear of persecution. In the opinion, Judge Lawrence Burman described homeschoolers as a distinct group of people who have a "principled opposition to government policy" that would face persecution both because of their religious beliefs and because they were "members of a particular social group." The Romeike family fled Germany [TIME report] in 2008. Burman's opinion was critical of German policy regarding educational freedom, calling the country's laws against homeschooling a violation of basic human rights.

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