Desire to Homeschool Not a Basis for Asylum

This morning the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit decided Romeike v. Holder.  Judge Sutton’s opinion for the court begins:

Uwe and Hannelore Romeike have five children, ages twelve, eleven, nine, seven and two, at least at the time this dispute began. Rather than send their children to the local public schools, they would prefer to teach them at home, largely for religious reasons. The powers that be refused to let them do so and prosecuted them for truancy when they disobeyed orders to return the children to school. Had the Romeikes lived in America at the time, they would have had a lot of legal authority to work with in countering the prosecution. See Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205, 213–14 (1972); Pierce v. Soc’y of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510, 534–35 (1925); Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390, 400–01 (1923).

But the Romeikes lived in Germany when this dispute began. When the Romeikes became fed up with Germany’s ban on homeschooling and when their prosecution for failure to follow the law led to increasingly burdensome fines, they came to this country with the hope of obtaining asylum. Congress might have written the immigration laws to grant a safe haven to people living elsewhere in the world who face government strictures that the United States Constitution prohibits. But it did not. The relevant legislation applies only to those who have a “well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.” 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(42)(A). There is a difference between the persecution of a discrete group and the prosecution of those who violate a generally applicable law. As the Board of Immigration Appeals permissibly found, the German authorities have not singled out the Romeikes in particular or homeschoolers in general for persecution. As a result, we must deny the Romeikes’ petition for review and, with it, their applications for asylum.

Judge Rogers also adds this brief concurrence:

At one point in the petitioners’ brief, they assert that “the sole question before this Court is whether Germany is violating binding norms of international law through its treatment of homeschoolers.” Petitioners’ Br. 37. Our role, however, is not that of an international court adjudicating Germany’s obligations to other countries in respect of its own citizens. Instead we sit as a court of the United States, enforcing statutes that implement some of the international obligations of the United States to other countries in respect of asylum applicants. As explained by the majority opinion, those obligations are fully met in this case.