Thanks to the growing national concern over immigration, the nation now has more immigration officers authorized to carry a gun and make arrests than it has FBI agents.
Led by a 31 percent increase at the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the number of armed federal agents with arrest power rose to 74,500 by mid-1996, the Justice Department reported Sunday.
During the past three years, the agent force of the Immigration and Naturalization Service grew faster than any other federal agency except the tiny Fish and Wildlife Service, which had a 40 percent increase to 869 agents. The INS is now the largest federal agent force, with more armed agents than either the Bureau of Prisons or the FBI.
Many of the 12,403 armed INS agents work for the Border Patrol, whose force is heavily concentrated along the Mexican border. The Border Patrol accounted for about two-thirds of the INS growth.