After 11 years of living in the United States undocumented, it was only when 31-year-old Albanian actor Praq Rado was making his way to the Hamptons International Film Festival (HIFF) last week that he was picked up by Customs and Border Protection Agents on an Amtrak train in Buffalo.
Rado, who was born Preke Radoina in Albania, was ironically attending the film festival for a screening of the short narrative film, “Dreaming American.” Written and directed by Lee Percy the film chronicles Rado’s life as an undocumented immigrant making his way in the United States.
On Tuesday, Percy confirmed that Rado was making the journey from Los Angeles to the East End for the screening, and was picked up by Customs and Border Protection agents in Buffalo last Thursday, October 4.
“Because he doesn’t have his papers, Praq cannot fly, so he takes the train,” said Percy. “It is not as if they were looking specifically for him, but they did a general sweep of the train and asked everyone show their papers. He didn’t have his, so they took him off the train and have detained him.”
According to Percy, he has retained an attorney in Buffalo who was expected to file a stay of removal, to prevent Rado’s deportation to Albania, sometime this week.
Rado was already in the process of having a motion prepared to reopen his case in an effort to reverse a 2007 order by immigration officials to remove him from the United States, said Percy.
“Dreaming American” was selected to appear at a number of film festivals including HIFF and the Palm Springs International ShortFest, and was an award winner at the Honolulu, Phoenix and Fort Lauderdale film festivals.
Percy, an award-winning film editor who has worked on films such as “Salt,” starring Angelina Jolie and “Reversal of Fortune” met Rado at an industry party and the two began talking about Rado’s story.
“He said to me, ‘You are going to make my life story into a film,’” said Percy.
The 24 minute documentary is a retelling of Rado’s story, starting with his emigration from Albania to New York City, where he survived, in part, by working as a go-go dancer, before making his way into the film and modeling world, all the while contending with an immigration bureaucracy that threatened to take it away in a single moment.
On Tuesday, Percy said one of his concerns about Rado being deported is the fact the film — already viewed by some in Albania — depicts what Rado had to do to stay in this country, including working as a male dancer, which could make him a target in Albania. Percy added another concern was Rado’s family’s opposition to the prevailing regime in Albania and he said politically, it is critical Rado is given asylum.
“His brother was just granted asylum,” said Percy who advised Rado’s supporters to keep an eye on the actor’s Facebook page. He added in the next week or so a letter writing campaign to senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer is also planned on Rado’s behalf.
Percy said Rado being deported was not just a safety concern, but would also upend the young actor’s life, just as he was finding critical success.
“Praq Rado’s dreaming American may have been all for nothing,” he said.