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.

American Immigration Lawyers Association

Education & Admissions


  • University of Michigan

    (B.A., 1980)

  • Case Western Reserve University School of Law

    (J.D., 1985)


  • State of Ohio
  • 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
  • U.S. Supreme Court


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 national authority on immigration law, David’s analyses and opinions 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


  • “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)
  • “Retrogression of Employment Based Visas: The New Reality in Business Immigration,” AILA (co-author, 2006)
  • “Getting Out: Strategies for Challenging Unlawful Detention in Federal Court,” AILA (co-author, 2006)
  • “Visa Processing Guide,” AILA (contributing author, 2002-2005)
  • “The Nuts and Bolts of Federal Court Litigation,” AILA Immigration and Nationality Handbook (co-author, 2004-2005)
  • “Advanced Issues in Adjustment of Status and Consular Processing,” AILA Immigration and Nationality Handbook (co-author, 2002-2003)
  • “Immigration Law and the Public Schools: Who is Entitled to a Free Public Education?” Ohio School Law Journal (January/February 2000)
  • “The Detention of Noncitizens: An Overview of the Law, its Implication, and Legal Strategies,” AILA Immigration and Nationality Handbook 34-67 (co-author, 1999-2000)
  • Immigration and Nationality Law Handbook, AILA (senior editor, 2005-2007)
  • Litigation Toolbox, AILA (contributor, 2002)


  • “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)
  • “Nuts & Bolts: How to Hire & Retain Foreign Professionals,” Ulmer Immigration Dialogue Series (April 2018)
  • “A Brave New World: Critical Issues Corporate Counsel Must Consider Before Foreign Personnel Travel Abroad,” Northeast Ohio Association of Corporate Counsel CLE Seminar (August 2017)
  • “Treatment of Certain Crimes at U.S. Consular Posts,” AILA Rome District Conference, Amsterdam, Netherlands (October 2016)
  • “What Happens Next in Immigration Law?” Federal Bar Association, Seventh Circuit Symposium, Chicago, Illinois (October 2016)
  • “Overview and Hot Topics in Petition for Review Litigation,” Ohio Chapter Conference, Columbus, Ohio (October 2016)
  • “E Pluribus Unum—The Immigration Conundrum,” Seventh Circuit Bar Foundation, Chicago, Illinois (March 2016)
  • “Ohio Immigration Defense in Illegal Reentry and Other Federal Criminal Cases,” AILA Annual Conference on Immigration law, San Francisco, California (June 2013)
  • “Motions to Suppress, Post-Judalang Developments, Burdens of Proof (I-213s, Convictions, and Marriage Fraud),” Midwest Regional Conference on Immigration Law, Chicago, Illinois (March 2013)
  • “Next Generation Issues in Prosecutorial Discretion and Administrative Remedies for Business Clients,” AILA Midyear Conference on Business Immigration Law, Panama City, Panama (January 2013)
  • “Walking The Tightrope: Ethical Issues for your Evolving Practice,” AILA New York Chapter Conference, New York, New York (December 2012)
  • “National Updates and Immigration Reform Efforts,” AILA Ohio Chapter Conference, AILA Ohio Chapter Conference, Columbus, Ohio (November 2012)
  • “Hot Topics in Waivers of Inadmissibility,” AILA Fall Conference, Montreal, Quebec (September 2012)
  • “DREAM Team Forum: United We Dream,” Staff Leadership Training on DACA, Lexington, Kentucky (August 2012)
  • “Immigration Issues for Foreign Medical Graduates,” National Association of Foreign Student Advisors (NAFSA) Conference, Houston, Texas (May 2012)
  • “Hot Topics in Consular Processing and Overseas USCIS,” AILA Rome Chapter, Bucharest, Romania (April 2012)
  • “The Postville Iowa Prosecutions,” Chicago Federal Bar Association Workplace Enforcement Conference, Chicago, Illinois (November 2008)
  • “Triggers of Inadmissibility and Strategies for Challenging Findings,” AILA Fall Conference, Savannah, Georgia (September 2008)
  • “Strategies for the Future: An Interactive Discussion, The Post-Postville Conference, Immigration Rights, Offenses, and Consequences,” National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, American Immigration Lawyers Association, and Kansas City Federal Defenders Conference, Kansas City, Missouri (September 2008)
  • “Immigration Consequences of Criminal Convictions,” Legal Aid Society of Cleveland and Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, Toledo, Ohio (September 2008)
  • “Litigation Workshop: Warming Up with the Basics,” AILA Annual Conference, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada (June 2008)
  • “Inadmissibility and Waivers,” American Law Institute/American Bar Association Conference on Immigration Law, Washington, D.C. (May 2008)
  • “Corporate Criminal Liability,” New York State Bar Association Symposium on Worksite Enforcement, New York, New York (February 2008)
  • “Applying for Relief Before the Court, USCIS, or the Consulate,” 29th Annual Immigration Law Update, Florida State Bar Association, Miami, Florida (February 2008)
  • “What Every Business Lawyer Needs to Know About Inadmissibility and Deportability,” Cuyahoga County Bar Association Immigration Seminar, Cleveland, Ohio (December 2007)
  • “Criminal Representation in ICE Enforcement Actions,” AILA Worksite Enforcement Conference, Phoenix, Arizona (December 2007)
  • “The Pursuit of Justice: Immigration Challenges,” Eighth District Judicial Conference, Cleveland, Ohio (October 2007)



  • 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)
  • 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, DHS Watch Project (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 – present; 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)


  • Edith Lowenstein Memorial Award for excellence in advancing the practice of immigration law, AILA (2012)
  • AILA Liaison to the Department of Homeland Security’s key immigration enforcement bureaus
  • Chaired the Hillary for America Immigration Working Group’s Interior Enforcement subgroup, overseeing the development and drafting of a comprehensive policy memorandum on interior enforcement
  • Named one of the top immigration experts to follow on Twitter by ABC News/Univision
  • Ranked in Band 1 for Immigration in Ohio by Chambers USA: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business (2021)
  • Ranked internationally in Immigration by Chambers Global (2021)
  • Ranked nationally in Immigration by Chambers USA (2020; 2021)
  • Named to the Cleveland Jewish News list of “18 Difference Makers” (2020)
  • Named to the National Law Journal’s Immigration Trailblazers (2018, 2020)
  • Named to The Best Lawyers in America, Immigration Law (2005-2022)
  • Named to the Ohio Super Lawyers list (2004, 2005, 2007-2021)
  • Listed in International Who’s Who of Corporate Immigration Lawyers
  • AV Preeminent Peer Review Rated – Martindale-Hubbell

David Leopold

Media Mentions