A Cuba-born detainee slated for deportation died in Florida last week, marking the 10th death in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement this year.
A cellmate of Wilfredo Padron, 58, found him unresponsive in their cell on Nov. 1. An investigation into what caused Padron's death is ongoing, but ICE officials believe "cardiac-related natural causes" killed the detainee at Monroe County Detention Center in Key West.
An ICE official confirmed to VOA that Padron was a "Marielito," one of more than 100,000 Cubans allowed to leave the island by boat in 1980, in what became known as the Mariel boatlift.
For years, Havana declined to receive deportees from the United States. The number of Cubans removed to the country is increasing, however. In fiscal 2016, Cuba accepted 64; in fiscal 2017, the country accepted 160.
Final data for fiscal 2018 are not available, but from Oct. 1, 2017, to July 30, 2018, 364 Cuba-born detainees were sent back to the island.
An ICE official told VOA the increase was not the result of any change on the part of the agency, which is "still doing business as usual."
The number of Cubans detained has also increased, according to a report last year by the Miami Herald newspaper.
Padron had a criminal record in South Florida and Texas for charges going back to at least 1999, largely for drug possession and driver's license-related offenses, according to an ICE official.
He received a final order of removal in November 2001 and was detained in August 2018 during a check-in with ICE officials, the official told VOA.
ICE issues news releases for deaths that happen under its custody. Some detainees arrive with chronic health problems or illnesses. Others commit suicide while they are awaiting deportation.
A document released by the agency lists all the deaths of detainees in its custody from 2003 to 2017. Heart attacks, hangings and acute alcohol withdrawal syndrome are among the causes listed for the deceased.
Human rights groups have criticized the agency about its health care for detainees. A 2016 report by the American Civil Liberties Union said inadequate medical care resulted in eight deaths at immigration detention centers from 2010 to 2012.