The man from El Salvador told a chilling story: He had been assaulted by a gang and tried to report the crime to police. Instead, gang members accosted him again, holding up a cellphone that was on speaker so he could hear the threat directly.

"I will hunt down your family one by one if you go to police," attorney Alyssa Domzal said he told her.

He traveled through Mexico and crossed into the United States near El Paso, Texas, where he was quickly apprehended and ultimately sent to a detention center in Folkston, Ga. There, he would meet Domzal, far from her own home in Baltimore — and her work as a corporate attorney specializing in commercial real estate transactions.

Domzal and a fellow attorney at Ballard Spahr, Michelle McGeough, are among hundreds of lawyers across the country who have taken time away from their paid work to travel to remote detention centers and represent undocumented immigrants — helping them seek asylum, for example, or release on bond or parole while awaiting rulings on whether they can stay in the United States or face deportation to the countries they fled.

Many in the legal profession have been motivated to take on the cause of those seeking entry to the U.S., with some of the country's most prominent law firms filing suits to challenge Trump's policies. Lawyers are donating their time, which might otherwise cost paying clients hundreds of dollars an hour, to represent immigrants.

"I became interested because the policy of family separation was particularly troubling to me because I'm the mother of two, and just imagining that policy playing out in my own life," said McGeogh, a litigator in real estate and employment cases.

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