In a 70 percent increase compared with the same period a year ago, agents from the Immigration and Naturalization Service removed 34,134 criminal and illegal aliens from the United States in the past three months of 1997.

Some 12,755 of those deported or otherwise removed were criminals, the agency said Thursday.Congress and the Clinton administration have funneled vast new resources to the INS in recent years amid widespread criticism that the agency was falling down on the job. Its budget has swelled from $1.5 billion in 1993 to more than $3.6 billion this year.

"Removing individuals who are unlawfully here remains a key component of our overall enforcement strategy to restore credibility to our nation's immigration laws," said INS Commissioner Doris Meissner.

Last year, the INS removed 113,324 people who were in this country unlawfully and has set a goal of 127,300 removals this year.