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The Sun editorial: Bring me your tired and poor, but not your homeschoolers

HAMBURG — It is not unusual for parents to seek alternative forms of education for their children. From the Montessori program to the “unschooling” trend, and from home schooling to Waldorf education, many choices are available, to American families.

Growing up, I often told people, “I am homeschooled. I am not a homeschooler.” Many of the 2 million other United States students in my situation are also quick to explain the difference. While I did study at home, I was not an introverted hermit.

I took music lessons from a local professional, studied and played sports with other home-educated kids, at a co-op and participated in live, broadcasted classes with students from all over the country.

While the U.S. Constitution does not include explicit wording that dictates Americans’ education choices, many forms of legislation explaining these rights have been adopted, over the years.

The No Child Left Behind Act laid out education options for American families. Parents are allowed to select which public school their children will attend, or they may choose from a range of other possibilities, including magnet schools, charter schools, private schools, homeschooling and more.

This freedom caught the eye of several German families who had not experienced the same freedoms their American counterparts did.

Uwe and Hannelore Romeike of southwest Germany removed their children from public school in 2006. The parents said that the constant, unruly behavior of other students was keeping their children from learning and they described stories about “devils, witches and disobedient children” printed in the German books their kids were required to read in school.

Germany outlawed homeschooling in 1918.

On Aug. 29, armed authorities removed four children, aged 7 – 14, from the home of Germany’s Dirk and Petra Wunderlich and kept the children absent from their parents for three weeks, because the couple had continued to homeschool.

German residents Thomas and Marit Schaum currently face criminal charges for homeschooling. The prosecutor is asking that the parents each go to jail for six months.

After pulling their kids out of the school system, the Romeikes faced fines that totaled more than $11,000, threats that they would lose their children and a visit from German police, who took the older kids to school in a police van.

The family fled to America in 2008. In 2010, Lawrence Burman, a federal immigration judge, granted political asylum, on the grounds that the family had a “reasonable fear of persecution for their beliefs if they returned” to Germany, according to The New York Times. The judge called the German government’s anti-homeschooling policy “utterly repellent to everything we believe, as Americans.”

The family of nine has been existing peaceably in Tennessee, educating the older children at home and sending the kids to play sports and take science classes, at a co-op.

Considering that President Barack Obama’s “common sense proposal” would establish an avenue for “earned citizenship” to completely illegal aliens, allowing a family that has applied for legal asylum to stay in the U.S. seems like a no-brainer.

But that is not what the United States Department of Homeland Security believes. That department challenged Burman’s decision to give the Romeikes political asylum and the board of immigration appeals overturned the judge’s ruling earlier this year, saying that the family is not being persecuted and does not belong to a particular social group, the two grounds allowed for political asylum.

Professor David Abraham from the University of Miami Law School told Fox News that he believes homeschooling is not a basic human right and that this family should not be allowed to stay in the U.S.

The Home School Legal Defense Association has been representing the Romeike family before the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is denying requests to re-hear the case.

“No one can understand why the White House is showing so much leniency to millions of immigrants who have come here illegally in hopes of securing better jobs, but is so determined to deport this one family who has come to America in search of freedom for themselves and their children,” said HSLDA Chairman Mike Farris.

Article 26, section 3 of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights said, “Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.”

Germany, a member of the U.N., will not allow these parents to make that choice, so the Romeikes have turned to our nation, asking for help in raising their children the way they believe is right.

Our government, which doesn’t bat an eye when deciding to educate illegal aliens’ children or provide immigrants with health care, now wants to evict this family, which came to the country legally and is merely asking to educate the kids, in its chosen way.

“Our own government is attempting to send them back,” Farris said. “Something important is being said about our own liberties as American homeschoolers.”

A “We the People” petition, defending the Romeikes’ plea to stay in the U.S., garnered more than 111,000 signatures in fewer than 30 days. The Obama administration said that petitions which get more than 100,000 signatures in a month will receive an official review and a formal response.

On Aug. 12, the government responded with a “no comment” about the at one time second-most-signed petition on its website.

A visit to “We the People” today will garner the following message: “Due to Congress’ failure to pass legislation to fund the government, We the People has been temporarily disabled.”

It is a great time to be an American.

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