Customs and Immigration officers gather on the stage of the Harquail Theatre on Friday to celebrate their graduation. - Photo: Spencer Fordin

The Customs and Immigration Departments became a little more robust on Friday.

Fifteen new recruits graduated in the first joint Customs Officer Basic Training class for the two departments on Friday, and they will begin service in a freshly merged organization.

The Customs and Immigration Departments will be merged to form the Customs and Border Control Agency on Jan. 1, 2019. Charles Clifford, Cayman’s Collector of Customs, welcomed the new agents to the service on Friday and said they will have a bright future in protecting their nation’s borders.

“You have joined our law enforcement family at a very, very exciting time,” said Mr. Clifford to the graduating class. “We are on the eve of Customs and Immigration departments merger, and this merger will facilitate a more robust, cohesive and effective national border patrol strategy which will ultimately make our islands safer. I’m honored to have you as an integral member of our team.”

The class featured 11 Customs Officers and four Immigration Officers.

Arriaga Zuniga, Nettie Bulgin, Charles Ebanks, Jessus Ebanks, Sheryl Farley, Michelle Johnson-Ebanks, Alexander Marzouca, Yaimara Matos Riol, Gabriel Myles, Trishana Osbourne and Lottaya Palmer all became new Customs Officers on Friday. Landie Ebanks, Kimberlee Rivers-Taylor, Rudy Walton and Marcella Wright were the four new additions to the Immigration Officer ranks.

The new officers sang “Lean on Me” as part of their graduation ceremony, and Mr. Clifford congratulated them for passing through a difficult process en route to graduation.

“You must feel as proud of yourselves as we are of you,” he said. “The 15 of you are here today because you have successfully endured the rigors of 18 weeks of intense training in various disciplines. This is a testament to your determination and devotion. You must also feel proud because after extensive testing, interviewing and background checks – including Interpol checks – the 15 of you were chosen from well over 400 applicants in the Customs and Immigration departments’ last recruitment drive.”

Acting Governor Franz Manderson and Roy McTaggart, the minister of finance and economic development, addressed the group during their graduation ceremony. Mr. Manderson lauded the group for their achievement and told them this was only the beginning of their careers in public service.

“I want to welcome you to our civil service family,” said Mr. Manderson, who started his career in the civil service as an immigration officer. “I need you to ask yourself a question. What’s next? I have been given this awesome opportunity to serve my country. I have been given the training. What’s next for me? You should have a short-term goal and you should have a long-term goal.”

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