Nearly 1 million of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States have been ordered to leave the country but remain, many hiding in plain view as they take advantage of an overwhelmed federal system, according to new documents.

In the latest demonstration that the U.S. legal and police system appears unable to enforce immigration laws, documents show that about 900,000 undocumented immigrants, including 170,000 criminals, have been ordered deported "in absentia," meaning a judge kicked them out without them even knowing it.

In the case of the recent surge of unaccompanied minors, huge numbers have been ordered deported, but likely remain behind because they didn't show up for deportation hearings and were shown the door in absentia.

Documents from the "Executive Office for Immigration Review," provided to Secrets, show the trend. From July 2014 to May 2015, for example, immigration judges "removed" 6,248 juveniles, but 5,453 were in absentia. During the same period, judges reviewing the cases of adult immigrants with children removed 11,516, 10,436 in absentia.

A critic of the system, Jessica M. Vaughan, director of policy studies for the Center for Immigration Studies, said since most of the removal orders are never carried out, the result is a "kangaroo court."

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