Uwe Romeike and his family fled Germany in the face of religious persecution. Their problems began when Uwe and his wife, Hannah, opted to pull their five children at the time out of public schools because of teachings and social practices that went against their Christian beliefs.
"We came here in 2008 because in Germany we were persecuted with high fines and threatened with jail time and loss of custody of our children," Uwe Romeike told "Washington Watch" Wednesday. "The police [escorted] our children to school, and it was just not any bearable situation for us to stay there. Then we came here to seek freedom to apply for asylum."
Upon arriving in the U.S. 15 years ago, the family quickly settled and began contributing to their community in Morristown, Tennessee. Uwe began work as a piano accompanist at Carson-Newman University, a private Baptist-affiliated school in nearby Jefferson City. He also serves as pianist at his church and operates a private piano studio.
The four oldest children are now adults, and two have married Americans. The oldest works as a pilot and airplane mechanic, but the Romeikes continue to homeschool their three youngest children, including the two daughters who were born in the U.S.
"We are all basically living our lives as everyone else around us, living a normal life," Uwe Romeike told show host Tony Perkins. "We feel like we are American now, and we are [being] forced to leave the country."
As AFN has reported, they were originally granted asylum in the U.S., but that decision was overturned in 2013, when the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the family had not sufficiently proven that school attendance laws in Germany amounted to persecution against them.
The family was granted indefinite deferred action status, which allowed them to live and work in the U.S. It also required consistent meetings with Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) officials -- a meeting that rubber-stamped their status … until a few weeks ago.
Ahead of the family's upcoming meeting with ICE officials in less than two weeks, they have been told to bring current German passports and begin the process of self-deportation.
No government official has told the Romeikes or Kevin Boden, their attorney at the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), why their status abruptly changed.
"Where this is coming from, why it's coming now, we simply don't know," Boden says. "This is a family that essentially faced religious persecution in Germany for homeschooling their children and came here to a country where refuge for those seeking religious expression and the ability to worship has been the history and foundation of this country."
Boden says ICE appears to hope the family will leave voluntarily, but the implied threat of forced deportation by the Biden administration hangs in the air.
On September 12th, U.S. Representative Diana Harshbarger (R-Tennessee) introduced H.R. 5423, a bill that would grant the Romeikes permanent status as legal residents with a possibly pathway to U.S. citizenship.
Similar legislation has helped other immigrants
Three similar bills granting relief to individuals facing deportation were enacted by Congress and signed by the president in 2022, according to the HSLDA.
"These kinds of bills come into play when the administrative process for solving specific immigration issues has been exhausted," Joel Grewe, executive director of HSLDA Action, explains. "It's a way for Congress to step in and correct an injustice. This bill can provide the Romeikes a safe harbor."
Though precedent exists for this type of beneficial legislation, Grewe warns there is no guarantee that H.R. 5423, the bill meant to specifically aid the Romeikes, will pass.
"They are going to need a lot of people on their side," he says.
The HSLDA has begun a petition drive to help the family. It is encouraging members to contact their representatives to ask that they support the measure as the House Judiciary Committee reviews it.