Iowa Rep. Christina Bohannan, who is running in Iowa’s 1st Congressional District, spoke to the Greater Des Moines Partnership Wednesday, Oct. 19. (Photo by Robin Opsahl/Iowa Capital Dispatch)
Solving Iowa’s problems like rural health care accessibility will require federal immigration reform and investment in public education, Democratic congressional candidate Christina Bohannan told business owners and members at the Greater Des Moines Partnership forum Wednesday.
Bohannan, a state representative from Iowa City running in Iowa’s reshaped 1st congressional district, said if elected, she would work to address workforce shortages and the closures of hospitals and schools.
She is running against Republican U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, who currently represents Iowa’s 2nd District. Miller-Meeks spoke at the Partnership’s forum series earlier this month. At both events, the candidates discussed their willingness to work across the aisle. One of the issues Bohannan said she wants to work on with Republicans is immigration reform.
“I think all of Washington, D.C., has failed on immigration,” she said. “Democrats, Republicans, I mean, I am I’m very independent minded on that. I think that we do need to secure our border, but we do need to provide a path to citizenship.”
Reforming the U.S. immigration system would help more workers come to places like Iowa, she said. She favors raising the percentage of immigrants accepted into the country for workforce and economic reasons each year.
She also said she wants to change existing immigration systems like that for J-1 visas, which require foreign-born doctors who study medicine in the U.S. to return to their home country for two years to be eligible for other U.S. visas.
The government currently grants 30 waivers for J-1 visas each year, allowing immigrant doctors to stay in the U.S. after completing their training, Bohannan said. But that number is arbitrary, she said, and should be increased to bring more qualified health care professionals to rural areas.
“These are highly qualified people,” she said. “They become, you know, members of the community community leaders, they’re really active and engaged and they are serving some of our really underserved areas in Iowa.”
Hospitals and other industries that require skilled labor are also suffering because of the state’s disinvestment from higher education, she said. Bohannan, who is a University of Iowa law professor, criticized the state for not keeping up with the rate of inflation when funding Iowa’s public university system.
“These are crown jewels of this state, but they are also the source of our workforce,” she said.
As a member of Congress, she would invest more in education with a focus on STEM, she said. In addition to building a skilled workforce in fields like medicine, the U.S. should also invest in education to expand domestic manufacturing, she said.
Bohannan disagreed with Miller-Meeks’ vote against the CHIPS and Science Act, which allocates more than $52 billion toward semiconductor chip manufacturing facilities and equipment. The Democrat said one of the few things she agreed with former President Donald Trump on was the need to be “tougher on China,” and said she is concerned about U.S. dependence on Taiwan for semiconductor manufacturing because of friction between Taiwan and China.
She said she wants the government to encourage more domestic manufacturing operations, and said she would work to bring industries like semiconductor manufacturing to Iowa.
“We could be an amazing spot for semiconductor manufacturing,” Bohannan said. “We have all the things … that we need here to be a location for that. I would like to see bringing more of those linchpin type manufacturing jobs back to the United States into Iowa, things like semiconductor manufacturing, other things that are necessary for our Iowa businesses.”
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