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Amid a growing uproar, has Republican U.S. Senate candidate Leah Vukmir -- a consistently hardline supporter of President Donald Trump -- changed her position on separating children from their parents at the border?
Read our fact checks in the Wisconsin U.S. Senate race
We turn to the Flip-O-Meter, which examines an official's consistency on an issue. It does not pass a judgment on a politician who changes positions, or determine if any shift is good policy or good politics.
News reports indicated a change on Vukmir’s part.
So, let’s take a closer look.
What’s been happening
As PolitiFact National has reported:
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in April 2018 announced a "zero-tolerance" policy, meaning every person caught crossing the border illegally would be referred for federal prosecution.
A good number of these people are adult migrants traveling with children. By law, when adults are detained and criminally prosecuted, their children cannot be housed with them in jail. Instead, kids are placed in a Department of Health and Human Services shelter until they can be released to a legal guardian.
Some 2,000 children have been separated from the adults they were traveling with across the U.S. border, according to the Department of Homeland Security. The children were separated from 1,940 adults from April 19 through May 31, 2018, as a result of border-crossing prosecutions.
Now to what Vukmir has said.
‘Process has to be upheld’
Vukmir had this exchange with Milwaukee-based TV show host Mike Gousha during a June 8, 2018 interview (broadcast June 10, 2018):
Gousha: "Do you have any concerns about some of the reports coming from along the border that say that people who are either seeking asylum or are trying to cross into the country illegally -- that parents and children are being separated? Do you have concerns about that?"
Vukmir: "Obviously, and I am going to have to watch that very closely. But people are taking advantage of our generosity in this country and I believe we are a nation of laws, and we have to stand up and uphold those laws ….There is a process that has to be upheld."
So, Vukmir states concern about separating children from their parents at the border. But she does not express opposition to the practice and says laws must be upheld.
Vukmir had a different take 11 days later.
‘Shouldn’t be separated’
Vukmir made this statement to the Associated Press on June 19, 2018:
"Of course families shouldn’t be separated. I was discussing this with" U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., "and he told me they’d be having a hearing as soon as next week to move on a fix to address this problem right away."
This is a shift. Vukmir is saying the practice of separating children from their parents should not happen.
The next day, Trump himself changed positions. As USA Today reported:
"President Trump, facing a national outcry, said Wednesday he would sign an executive order to keep migrant families together at the border, abandoning his earlier claim that the crisis was caused by an iron-clad law and not a policy that he could reverse."
On that, Vukmir’s campaign told us Vukmir is "glad" about Trump’s decision and "now we need to focus on fixing our broken immigration system, and that begins with securing our borders."
Our ratings on the Flip-O-Meter are:
No Flip – No significant change in position.
Half Flip – A partial change in position.
Full Flop – A complete change in position.
Vukmir never explicitly declared support for separating children from their parents at the border.
But she went from stating no opposition to the practice, and saying laws must be upheld, to saying it shouldn’t happen.
For a partial change in position, we give Vukmir a Half Flip.
Twitter, Associated Press reporter Scott Bauer tweets, June 19, 2018
Associated Press, "Walker: Separating Children at Border Is Federal Issue," June 19, 2018
WISN-TV, Mike Gousha interview of Leah Vukmir, June 10, 2018
Email, Leah Vukmir campaign spokeswoman Jessica Ward, June 20, 2018
Email, Wisconsin Democratic Party spokesman Brad Bainum, June 20, 2018
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