David A. Martin

  • Warner-Booker Distinguished Professor of International Law Emeritus

A leading scholar in immigration, constitutional law and international law, David A. Martin has helped shape immigration and refugee policy while serving in several key U.S. government posts. He joined the Virginia law faculty in 1980, after a period of private practice in Washington, D.C., and service as special assistant to the assistant secretary in the State Department’s then-new human rights bureau. He has published numerous books and articles in scholarly journals, including a leading casebook on immigration and citizenship law, now in its eighth edition. His op-ed commentary has been published in The Washington Post, The New York Times, Vox, The Hill, the International Herald Tribune and The National Law Journal, among others.

As principal deputy general counsel of the Department of Homeland Security from January 2009 to December 2010, and in earlier government service at the Department of State and the Department of Justice (including an appointment as general counsel to the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1995-98), Martin was closely involved in critical legal and policy developments in the immigration field. These included the Refugee Act of 1980, a major alteration of U.S. asylum procedures in 1995, implementation of the 1996 statutory amendments to the immigration laws, Obama administration reforms of enforcement priorities and the detention system used in connection with immigration removal proceedings, and the federal government’s 2010 lawsuit against Arizona’s restrictive immigration enforcement law. He also served as DHS’s representative on the interdepartmental task forces created by President Barack Obama’s executive orders for evaluating the cases of all detainees at Guantánamo and for reviewing overall detention policies in the battle against terrorism.

A graduate of DePauw University and Yale Law School (where he was editor-in-chief of the Yale Law Journal), Martin served as a law clerk for Judge J. Skelly Wright and Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr. He has held a German Marshall Fund fellowship for research in Geneva, and in 1988 he chaired the Immigration Section of the Association of American Law Schools. From 2003 to 2005 he served as vice president of the American Society of International Law, and he was a member of the Board of Editors of the American Journal of International Law from 2004 to 2014. From 2015 to 2018 he served on the federal government’s Homeland Security Advisory Council.

Scholarship Profile: A Trailblazer in Immigration and Refugee Law (Virginia Journal 2001)


  • J.D.
    Yale Law School
  • B.A.
    DePauw University

Immigration and Citizenship: Process and Policy (with others) (West Academic, 8th ed. 2016).

“Improving the Exercise of the Attorney General’s Immigration Referral Power: Lessons from the Battle over the ‘Categorical Approach’ to Classifying Crimes,” 102 Iowa L. Rev. Online 1 (2016).
HeinOnline (PDF)

“Resolute Enforcement Is Not Just for Restrictionists: Building a Stable and Efficient Immigration Enforcement System,” 30 J.L. & Pol. 411 (2015).
HeinOnline (PDF)

“Why Immigration’s Plenary Power Doctrine Endures,” 68 Okla. L. Rev. 29 (2015).
HeinOnline (PDF)

Current Courses

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All Courses

Constitutional Law
Immigration Law
International Human Rights
Presidential Powers
Refugee Law
Seminar in Ethical Values


Retiring Professor David Martin Reflects on His Time at UVA Law

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