Entries in Germany (3)


Home Schooling German Family Fights Deportation

Comstock/Thinkstock(MORRISTOWN, Tenn.) -- A German family that fled to the United States in 2008 to be free to home school their children is fighting deportation after a decision granting them asylum was overturned.

Uwe and Hannelore Romeike, devout Christians from the southwest of Germany who now have six children, initially took their three oldest children out of school in their native country in 2006. Shortly after, the German government started fining the family and threatening them with legal action.

Home schooling has been illegal in Germany since 1918, when school attendance was made compulsory, and parents who choose to homeschool anyway face financial penalties and legal consequences, including the potential loss of custody of their children.

To escape such legal action, the family fled to the United States in 2008 and was granted political asylum in 2010, eventually making their home in Tennessee. U.S. law states that individuals can qualify for asylum if they can prove they are being persecuted because of their religion or because they are members of a particular "social group."

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement challenged the decision to grant the Romeikes asylum to the Board of Immigration Appeals in 2012, claiming that Germany's stringent policy against homeschooling did not constitute persecution.

The board overturned the initial asylum decision, arguing that homeschoolers are not a particular social group because they don't meet certain legal standards, The board said that the home-schooled population is too vague and amorphous to constitute a social group.

Now the family is fighting that decision in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which will hear the case on April 23.

"We think we have a pretty strong case," Romeike family attorney Michael Donnelly told ABC News. "We feel that what Germany is doing by preventing this family and a lot of other families from exercising their rights in the education of their children violates a fundamental human right," he said.

Donnelly says the right of parents to decide the direction of their child's education has been established in Article 26, section 3 of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights which reads: "Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children."

"Our Supreme Court has said that the state cannot unduly burden, restrict, or direct childrens' education privately," said Donnelly, referring to a precedent established in a 1925 case, Pierce v. Society of Sisters.

Karla McKanders, an asylum and refugee law specialist at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, told ABC News the family faces an uphill battle.

"They are trying to establish that they are eligible for asylum under the social group category, which is a difficult group to prove in the first place," McKanders said.

McKanders also says that public policy implications as far as the United States' relationship with Germany could also be in play in this case, and that immigration officials may be wary of setting a precedent that establishes home schooling as a means for asylum.

"They don't want to open up the floodgates for similar asylum claims based on these grounds," she said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


E. Coli Outbreak Baffles Experts, Reaches US

Duncan Smith/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The source of an alarming E. coli outbreak in Europe that has so far left 17 people dead and more than 1,500 sick has baffled experts who warn the outbreak is more severe than anything they've ever seen from the bacteria.

The strain has hit eight countries in Europe, but has been concentrated in Germany. At least two cases have surfaced in the U.S.

"This strain of E. Coli seems to be particularly virulent and also antibiotic resistant," said Dr. Ann Marie Kimball, professor of epidemiology and health sciences at the University of Washington School of Public Health. "It is a toxin producing strain which causes kidney shut down and apparently higher mortality."

Despite a massive medical dragnet, the culprit for the outbreak has not yet been determined. The initial suspect was cucumbers from Spain, but tests have discounted that the vegetable was responsible for carrying the bacteria. Tomatoes and lettuce are also being tested.

Because the source of the outbreak is still unknown, it is possible that tainted products could be unknowingly transported into the U.S., warned Dr. William Schaffner, chair of the department of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

"Bacteria do not need a passport," said Schaffner. "There already have been a couple of cases in the U.S. The patients had traveled to Hamburg, returned to the U.S. where they became ill. This could happen again and the E. Coli could be transmitted to family, friends and others in the U.S."

"Fortunately, this is not very likely if the source is fresh produce because not much of that is imported into the U.S. food supply from Europe," he said.

Most E. Coli strains are harmless, but those that do cause sickness usually trigger bouts of diarrhea, fever and vomiting. In the bacteria's most serious and severe form, the infection causes hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS, a condition which attacks the kidneys and can cause stroke, seizure, coma and death.

German officials said this particular strain is a common bacteria found the digestive systems of mammals, including cows and humans.

In a typical outbreak, about 1 to 2 percent of those affected suffer from HUS. Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said that it will be important to decipher whether there is something unusual about this particular agent which is causing a higher percentage of people to suffer from HUS -- or the outbreak is just extremely widespread.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Spy Files: Nazi Plot in US Blown by Drunken Blabbing, Idiocy

Photos[dot]com/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Newly released spy documents reveal that in the midst of World War Two, a small group of Nazi spies embarked on an ambitious plan to unleash a campaign of terror and sabotage on the United States from within its borders but failed miserably due to drunkenness, incompetence and a turncoat team leader.

The declassified MI5 files, released Monday by the British National Archives, detail the comical failing of the well-known June 1942 German plot to land eight Nazi operatives on U.S. shores -- four along the Florida coast and four others on New York's Long Island -- where they were to begin sabotaging U.S. factories, canals and railways and execute "small acts of terrorism" aimed at Jewish-owned shops. The spies had been trained in explosives at a special "Sabotage School."

The teams, the report notes, were "better equipped with sabotage apparatus and better trained than any other expeditions of which the Security Service has heard."

However, the plan, called Pastorius after an early German settler in colonial America, began to fall apart before the operatives even made the trip across the Atlantic. The documents show that while in Paris -- which at the time was occupied by the German military -- one of the spies got drunk at a hotel bar and "told everyone that he was a secret agent."

German intelligence believed the loose-lipped admission may "have contributed to the failure of the undertaking," the report said.

Once they made the crossing, the operatives' luck did not get much better. One team, which had been dropped off on Long Island still wearing their Germany military uniforms after the submarine that delivered them accidentally ran aground, was almost immediately caught by an unidentified U.S. military official. The Germans had just managed to change into their civilian clothes when the officer approached and offered him $300 to simply leave.

The stranded submarine itself was only saved from attack by the U.S. by what the report called the "laziness or stupidity" of American forces.

The Florida team made it to shore where they emerged from the sea wearing only bathing trunks and "army forage caps."

Both teams were eventually arrested after the team leader, George John Dasch, called up the FBI from a New York hotel "saying that he was a saboteur and wished to tell his story to [FBI chief J. Edgar] Hoover." His request was refused, but Dasch did come to an FBI building where he told the whole story -- a confession that took five 10-hour days.

One of the men in the Florida team "assisted authorities in causing his own arrest by going into an FBI office when 'Wanted' notices were already out for him, pretending that he had just arrived from Mexico and wanted to clear up his military service papers," the report said.

The MI5 author of the report said it was possible Dasch had planned his surrender as soon as he was given the assignment in Germany and used the operation as his personal escape route from Germany. Each saboteur was caught and sentenced to death, except for Dasch and another operative who had turned on the team were excused and later deported back to Germany.

The report notes that a third sabotage team was believed to have arrived in the U.S. around the same time as the first two and was "still at large." British intelligence expected still more teams to follow.

But according to the FBI historians, "So shaken was the German intelligence service that no similar sabotage attempt was every again made."

Other MI5 files released Monday document what is referred to as Germany's plans to create post-war "world disorder" through acts of terrorism in order to create chaos in which the "Fourth Reich would re-emerge."

The plan, as told by a captured French Nazi spy who attended an SS conference in the last weeks of the war, was to use sabotage, assassinations and chemical warfare to continue the Nazi's fight long after the war had officially ended.

Other files show German intelligence training concerning a coordinated plan to poison food, chocolate, alcoholic drinks and even cigarettes in post-war Europe. Poison was to be injected into sausages and cakes and bread were to be laced with arsenic. The Nazis had also apparently developed brown pellets that, when placed in ashtrays, exploded with the heat from a cigarette or cigar, "killing anyone nearby," according to the National Archives.

"Nowadays it's easy to regard such schemes as impossibly far fetched," said former MI5 historian Christopher Andrew in a National Archives Podcast, "but at the time it was reasonable to believe that after the Allied victory there would remain a dangerous post-war Nazi underground which would continue a secret war."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio