A few days ago, the fine folks at Popehat explained why they want to kick a harmless German immigrant family out of the country. The Popehat guys seem like nice folks, so I assume they don’t mean it the way it sounds, ’cause it sounds pretty bad.
The Romeike family didn’t like the way the public schools taught their children, and so they wanted to homeschool them. Unfortunately, the Romeikes lived in Germany, which doesn’t allow homeschooling. I have my doubts about the motives of a lot of homeschoolers, but the justifications coming from German officialdom are not to be taken seriously:
In Germany, mandatory school attendance dates back to 1717, when it was introduced in Prussia, and the policy has traditionally been viewed as a social good. “This law protects children,” says Josef Kraus, president of the German Teachers’ Association.
That sounds nice, but the president of the German Teachers’ Association is not exactly a disinterested party. I’m pretty sure he likes this law because it protects teacher jobs.
Homeschooling parents tend to want to shield their children from negative influences. But this quest often runs counter to the idea that schools represent society and help promote tolerance. “No parental couple can offer a breadth of education [that can] replace experienced teachers,” says Kraus, of the German Teachers’ Association. “Kids also lose contact with their peers.”
I tend to agree that contact with ones peers is a good thing, but Kraus is glossing over the ugly way these laws can be enforced:
In 2007, Germany’s Federal Supreme Court issued a ruling – which did not specifically involve the Romeikes – that parents could lose custody of their children if they continued to homeschool them.
In other words, the German government thinks the breadth of education and opportunities to socialize at school are more important than keeping families together. If losing contact with their peers is bad for kids, how much worse is it to be torn from their parents?
In any case, the Romeikes family decided to leave Germany and go someplace nicer. They came to the United States, but they did it in an unusual way: They requested political asylum. And they got it.
This outrages Ezra at Popehat for reasons that seem rather petty:
The issue here, is one of scale. How about instead of applying for political asylum you move? Home schooling is perfectly fine in neighboring Austria, and if you are (as you say) really concerned about the impact of culture on your kids Austria would be far less jarring in every way to them.
What puzzles me is that the Romeikes did exactly what Ezra suggested: They moved. Granted, they didn’t move to Austria as Ezra suggested, they came here to the United States instead. Perhaps they felt our culture was better than Austria’s, at least for raising their children. Ezra never explains why he thinks that moving to the United States is bad but moving to Austria is okay. Is it just that Austria is closer?
Ezra then descends into what is almost a parody of a resentful liberal:
Apparently, the Romeike’s were contacted by a US home school advocacy group, and encouraged to seek asylum here. Hmm. That doesn’t seem political at all. I wonder how the religious right would feel if a Salvadoran family applied for asylum under the same pretense? I guarantee you that [our] inherently racist immigration policies would make it a lot more difficult than it was for the German family. Or how about a gay man legally married in the US? Nope, but let the German family in right away.
In other words, Ezra is arguing that it’s unfair to allow these people to enter the country while other people—who I presume Ezra finds more likeable—are still barred from entering.
Although I have no doubt that it’s unfair, the injustice here is not that the Romeikes were allowed to enter the United States, but that all those other people were turned away. Ezra wants to champion fairness, but it sounds a lot more like envy, which is a poor basis for public policy.
The bottom line is that this is a gross misuse of the political asylum statutes.
No, the bottom line is that a family was unhappy with where they were living, so they moved to someplace they liked better, and now unkind people want to send them back. It helps to remember that homeshooling is completely legal here, but in Germany the government wants to take their children away. If that isn’t grounds for asylum, what is?
They should be used for people who are in genuine danger, and who do not have the means to extricate themselves from this danger, not for a family that could easily have moved to several Euro countries that are ok with home schooling instead of engaging in political grandstanding.
What’s the logic here? Once they leave Germany, what’s the basis in moral theory for preferring they settle in one country over another? Is it really just the length of the trip? Arguably, it’s less trouble for us if they settle elsewhere, but everyone living elsewhere can make the same argument. If they had gone to live in Austria, couldn’t there be some hacked-off Austrians complaining that they should have gone to the U.S. instead?
And by the same logic—that other opportunities are available—bigots could argue that gay people don’t need to marry because they have civil unions, and black people don’t need to get into our favorite restaurant because there are so many other places they could go. These people want to live here. And as long as they pay their way and don’t commit crimes against us, who the hell are we to tell them “no”?
I’ll end with the good news that the US will likely appeal the asylum, and hopefully the family will have their asylum revoked, and be forced to return to the tyrannical regime they fled, the German school district.
Ezra’s evident glee at forcing this family to relocate is disturbing, and it’s not helped by the article’s explanation of the asylum appeal:
The ruling is tricky politically for Washington and its allies in Europe, where several countries – including Spain and the Netherlands – allow homeschooling only under exceptional circumstances, such as when a child is extremely ill. That helps explain why in late February, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement formally appealed the Romeike ruling, which was issued by an immigration judge in Memphis, Tenn…
“It’s very unusual for people from Western countries to be granted asylum in the U.S.,” says David Piver, an immigration attorney with offices in a Philadelphia suburb and Flagstaff, Ariz. In 2008, the most recent year for which data are available, only five Germans received asylum in the U.S. (The Justice Department declined to comment on specific cases.) Piver, who is not involved in the Romeike case, predicted the U.S. government would appeal the decision “so as not to offend a close ally.”
In other words, the asshats at Immigration and Customs Enforcement are selling out this family in the interest of international politics. Yet another reason why our immigration laws deserve no respect.
The blog comments at Popehat aren’t very encouraging. Patrick, another Popehat blogger, tries to come to Ezra’s defense:
I don’t see any inconsistency between supporting broader legal immigration (as Ezra does) and opposing a gross misuse of laws presently on the books (which I agree this is), nor with the observation that INS and ICE frequently apply the law in a racist fashion. These people should be sent back to Germany.
And Ezra again:
Again, my problem isn’t with home schooling per se (although I think it’s a bad idea, much like being a fan of Creed it’s a personal choice..) it’s with this family abusing the political asylum statutes. Political asylum is for people with no other recourse.
Again, you can’t tell me that there is any reason the German family should have been let in, and the Brazilian man not let in. Other than blatant racism of course.
I’m sure that racism was involved, but the racist discrimination here is in keeping the Brazilian man out. Letting a German family emmigrate to the United States, if they want to, is not a racist act.
What it comes down to is that a family came to the United States because they like it here. But now that they’re here, some people want to kick them out of their home, uproot them from their community, and deport the from the country. And the only reasons offered for treating them so cruelly are that they didn’t suffer enough back home, that they came from too far away, and that they twisted our absurd immigration laws…plus a rather unattractive bit of envy.