David W. Leopold

Partner | Group Leader, Immigration

David Leopold’s diverse immigration, visa, and citizenship practice focuses on employment- and family-based immigration, the representation of employers in Form I-9 compliance matters, complex removal cases including administrative trials and appeals, and federal court litigation. David is the past president and past general counsel of the Washington, D.C.-based American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), the premier bar association of immigration lawyers and professors in the U.S. A nationally recognized immigration reform advocate, writer, and public speaker, David has testified as an immigration law expert before the U.S. Congress and frequently writes for MSNBC.com, CNN.com, TPM.com, USA Today, The Hill, and Huffington Post. His analyses of cutting-edge immigration issues frequently appears in major media outlets including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, Politico, Mother Jones, and CNN.

AILA 2023 Member

Education & Admissions


  • University of Michigan

    (B.A., 1980)

  • Case Western Reserve University School of Law

    (J.D., 1985)


  • State of Ohio
  • U.S. Supreme Court
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit
  • U.S. District Court, Northern District of Ohio


David has extensive experience in all areas of immigration, visa, citizenship, consular practice, and deportation defense including:

  • Employment-based nonimmigrant and immigrant visas for highly skilled foreign professionals, including corporate managers and executives, engineers, computer professionals, artists and entertainers, physicians, scientists, and other professionals.
  • Alien employment certification (PERM)  for companies seeking to permanently retain foreign professionals and skilled workers.
  • Waivers of the J-1 two-year foreign residence requirement for foreign medical graduates including Conrad 30 and interested federal government agency waivers.
  • Consular representation at U.S. Embassies and Consulates worldwide, including applications for immigrant and nonimmigrant visa waivers.
  • Complex naturalization matters, including initial N-400 applications, N-336 appeals, and federal court litigation.
  • Advising companies on employment verification compliance in anticipation of mergers and acquisitions.
  • Counseling and representing companies regarding compliance with employment authorization verification requirements, including internal Form I-9 audits and employer sanctions defense.
  • Complex deportation matters, including administrative trials and appeals, and federal immigration litigation.
  • Representation of clients charged with immigration-related crimes, including visa fraud, illegal procurement of citizenship, and illegal reentry.

A respected authority on immigration law, David has extensive national immigration policy experience, including:

  • Serving as a member of the Biden-Harris transition team’s Homeland Security Working Group, where he provided counsel to the incoming administration on immigration and border security issues.
  • Serving as a member of the Biden-Harris presidential campaign’s Immigration Working Group, where he developed immigration policy proposals for senior advisors.
  • Chairing the Hillary for America Immigration Working Group’s Interior Enforcement subgroup, where he oversaw the development of a comprehensive policy memorandum on interior enforcement.
  • Serving on the National Platform Committee of the Democratic Party in 2016 and 2020.

David’s analyses and opinions on immigration law frequently appear in major media outlets, including:

  • Contributing frequent opinion pieces to major media outlets including The Boston Globe, MSNBC.com, TPM.com, The Cincinnati Enquirer, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Bloomberg Law, CNN.com, MediaMatters.com, Medium.com, HuffingtonPost.com, FOXNews.com, and FOXNewsLatino.com.
  • Appearing as an on-air legal analyst for major national and international networks including MSNBC, CNN, FOX News, NPR, BBC, and CGTN TV.
  • Serving as a “go-to” analyst of cutting-edge immigration issues for national and international print and online outlets including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, USA Today, NewsweekThe Miami Herald, The Houston Chronicle, Associated Press, Reuters, Politico, Huffington Post, McClatchy News, Mother Jones, BuzzFeed, and The Guardian.

Reported Cases

  • Mendieta-Robles v. Gonzales, 2007 FED App. 0387N (6th Cir.2007)
  • Tilley v. Gonzales, 2007 FED App. 0295N (6th Cir.2007)
  • Pak v. Reno, 196 F.3d 666 (6th Cir. 1999)
  • Pulice v. INS, 218 F.3d 505 (6th Cir. 2000)
  • Roman v. Ashcroft, 340 F.3d 314 (6th Cir. 2003)
  • Rosales-Garcia v. Holland, 322 F.3d 386 (6th Cir. 2003)(en banc)
  • Roman v. Ashcroft, 181 F. Supp. 2d 808 (N.D. Ohio 2002)
  • Denko v. Ashcroft, 351 F.3d 717 (6th Cir. 2003)
  • Cline v. Catholic Diocese, 206 F.3d 651 (6th Cir. 1999)
  • Independence Local School District Board of Education v. State Employment Relations Board et al. 62 Ohio St. 3d 134 (1991)
  • Board of Education of the Strongsville City School District v. Theado, 57 Ohio St. 3d (1991)
  • Mackey v. Steve Barry Ford, Inc., 1991 Ohio App. LEXIS 2574 (May 30, 1991)
  • Theodore T. Theodore v. Geo Churchill, Inc., 1990 Ohio App. LEXIS 5961; Noll v. Nezbeth, 63 Ohio App. 3d 46 (1990)
  • D’Ambrosi v. Vicorp Specialty Restaurant, Inc., 1989 Ohio App. LEXIS 628
  • Lazar v. Korman, 1987 Ohio App. LEXIS 9215
  • Dalzell-Milstein v. Midwestern Indem. Co., 1986 Ohio App. LEXIS 8631
  • Republic Steel Corp. v. Hailey, 30 Ohio App. 3d 103 (1986)

Publications & Presentations

Client Alerts


  • “What DHS Just Announced Would Have Helped Undocumented Workers Fired by Donald Trump,” Medium (January 2023)
  • “Bearing Witness at the Southern Border,” Medium (September 2019)
  • “Immigration Enforcement Under Trump Neglects Rule of Law,” Law360 (May 2019)
  • “Trump’s Hard Line Includes Business Immigration,” Today’s General Counsel Magazine (March 2019)
  • A Vote to Pass Year-end Budget is a Vote to Deport Dreamers,” The Hill (Op-ed, November 2017)


David is a frequent speaker on a wide range of immigration topics. The following is a selection of his many presentations:

  • “E’s, L’s and FAM Gems,” AILA Latin America and Caribbean Chapter CLE Conference (December 2022)
  • “J-1 Physician Waivers Overview,” Cleveland Clinic International Physician Services Webinar (November 2022)
  • “The Healthcare Workforce of Tomorrow,” Center for Health Affairs Workforce Roundtable (September 2022)
  • U.S. Immigration Update,” Ulmer Webinar (October 2021)
  • “O Brave New World When Will the Trump Administration’s Business Immigration Policies Be Undone?” AILA National Midwinter Conference (March 2021)
  • “Immigration Under a Biden/Harris Administration,” American Bar Association International Law Section Immigration & Naturalization Committee Webinar (January 2021)
  • DACA, Immigration, and Legal Rights: What All International Students Need to Know,” Case Western Reserve University Webinar (July 2020)
  • What the Suspension of Entry for Foreign Nationals on H-1B, H-2B, L, and J Visas Means for Your Business and Employees,” Ulmer Webinar (June 2020)
  • “Can We Help Those Most at Risk for COVID 19: Falling Between the Cracks,” AJC Westchester/Fairfield Virtual Program (June 2020)
  • What Employers Need to Know About COVID-19 and H-1B Workers,” Ulmer Webinar (April 2020)
  • The New Restrictive World of Business Immigration: Strategies to Hire and Maintain Foreign Talent,” Ulmer Webinar (January 2020)
  • “What the Civil Defense Litigator Should Know About Immigration,” Ohio Association of Civil Trial Attorneys Annual Meeting and Conference (November 2019)
  • “The Immigration Crisis in Our Own Backyard: How Current Policies are Impacting Cleveland Families,” Park Synagogue East (November 2019)
  • “I-9 Audits and Enforcement,” AILA Annual Fall Ohio Conference (October 2019)
  • “Denaturalization in the Wake of ‘Operation Janus’ and ‘Operation Second Look,’” AILA Annual Conference on Immigration Law (June 2019)
  • “Wrench in the Plan: How to Navigate the New Age of Enforcement when ICE Comes Knocking,” Ulmer Immigration Dialogue Series (June 2018)
  • “Toolkit Inventory: Employee Travel in the Age of ‘Extreme Vetting,’” Ulmer Immigration Dialogue Series (May 2018)
  • “A Brave New World: Immigration in the Age of Donald Trump,” Rotary Club of Toledo (May 2018)



  • American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) (President, 2010-2011; General Counsel, 2012-2013; Vice President, 2007-2009; National Treasurer, 2006-2007; National Secretary, 2005-2006)
  • Law360 Immigration Editorial Advisory Board (2021; 2022)
  • Leadership Cleveland (Member, Class of 2019)
  • AILA Administrative Litigation Task Force (Member, 2018-2019)
  • American Immigration Council (Board of Directors, 2009-2011; Faculty and Co-Founder—AIC Litigation Institute)
  • Adjunct Professor of Immigration Law, Cleveland State University (2004-2012)
  • Director of Immigration Law Curriculum and Adjunct Professor of Law, Case Western Reserve University School of Law (1997-2011)
  • Federal Criminal Justice Act Panel, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Ohio (1999-2013)
  • National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (1999-2005)
  • Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association


  • America’s Voice (Immigration Counsel, 2018-present)
  • Latino-Jewish Leadership Council, American Jewish Committee (Founding Member, 2017-present)
  • American Jewish Committee (Board of Trustees, 2009-present; National Immigration Task Force, 2010-present)
  • Global Cleveland (Board of Directors, 2020-2022; Advisory Board, 2010-2014)
  • National Platform Committee for the 2020 Democratic National Convention (Committee Member, Ohio Delegation)
  • Ohio Democratic Party (Volunteer Voter Protection Attorney and Precinct Supervisor, 2004, 2008, 2012, 2016)
  • Ishmael & Isaac (Board Member, 2006-2009)
  • City Cable Commission, Beachwood, Ohio (Associate Commissioner, 1999-2004)
  • Legal Aid Society of Cleveland (Trustee, 1988-1991)


  • Ranked in Band 1 for Immigration in Ohio by Chambers USA: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business (2021-2023)
  • Ranked internationally in Immigration by Chambers Global (2021-2023)
  • Ranked nationally in Immigration by Chambers USA (2020-2023)
  • Named to The Best Lawyers in America, Immigration Law (2005-2023)
  • Named to the Ohio Super Lawyers list (2004, 2005, 2007-2023)
  • Named to the National Law Journal’s Immigration Trailblazers (2018, 2020, 2023)
  • Named to the Lawdragon 100 Leading Immigration Lawyers (2023)
  • Named to the Cleveland Jewish News list of “18 Difference Makers” (2020)
  • AILA Liaison to the Department of Homeland Security’s key immigration enforcement bureau
  • Named one of the top immigration experts to follow on Twitter by ABC News/Univision
  • Edith Lowenstein Memorial Award for excellence in advancing the practice of immigration law, American Immigration Lawyers Association (2012)
  • Listed in International Who’s Who of Corporate Immigration Lawyers
  • AV Preeminent Peer Review Rated – Martindale-Hubbell


Media Mentions