An interesting case regarding the basic eligibility requirements for asylum was recently issued by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. In that case, German nationals fled their country and applied for asylum in the U.S. based on their belief that Germany’s ban on homeschooling can be considered as a well-founded fear of future persecution.
Generally, an applicant’s claim for asylum must be based on one of the five grounds: religion, nationality, political opinion, membership in a particular social group, and / or race. In the instant case, the applicants state that they fear future persecution by the German government due to its enforcement of the law that bans homeschooling for children. Specifically, they argue that forcing their children to attend public schools would allow their children to become familiar with values that are Anti-Christian, and thus they argue that they have a well-founded fear of future persecution based on a religious basis.
Although the Immigration Judge initially granted the asylum application, the Board of Immigration Appeals reversed the Judge’s ruling and denied the asylum application. The case was appealed to the Sixth Circuit Court, and in its Decision, the Court states that the applicants are not eligible for asylum. Because there is a generally applicable law in Germany that requires all children to attend public schools or a state condoned private schools, the Court held that the German government was not selectively punishing the applicants. The Court notes that the German government, in implementing the law by applying heavy fines on the applicants, was merely enforcing its own laws and not persecuting the applicants for any other reason other than that it is the law in Germany.
The Court states that in order for the Applicants to win their asylum case, they must show that German officials applied the law more strictly to faith based homeschooling families and that the punishment was more severe to the faith based homeschooling families. In the instant case, the family was fined the same amount as any other family that failed to enroll their children in the state school.
This case can be considered as precedent for applicants in and outside the jurisdictional area of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals due to the underlying decision issued by the Board of Immigration Appeals. The instant case makes it clear that the Court will not consider the underlying basis of Germany’s law that prohibits homeschooling but rather that it will look to whether that law singles out any protected group based on the five grounds mentioned above for asylum.