Immigrant Actor Headed to Hamptons Film Festival Detained

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BUFFALO, NY - An actor on his way to see a film at the Hamptons International Film Festival about his life as an immigrant in America was picked up by federal immigration officials.

Customs and Border Protection agents took Praq Rado, a 31-year-old Albanian-born actor who has lived in America for 11 years without documentation, into custody while he was on board an Amtrak train in Buffalo.

"Dreaming American," a short film based on Rado's life, made its East Coast premiere during the film festival. Rado was due to speak at the festival headquarters prior to his being detained.

Rado is the lead actor in the 24-minute film that tells the story of his immigration journey, including how he escaped from Albania without papers. He was thrown overboard from a ship off the Italian coast and made his way to shore.

In America, Rado struggled to survive and find work without a Social Security number, taking jobs as a go-go dancer at a gay bar in the East Village. He ended up becoming a successful model and transitioned to acting.

Lee Percy, an award-winning editor who wrote and directed "Dreaming American" and worked on "Salt" starring Angelina Jolie, met Rado at an industry party. Rado was working at as a caterer and pitched his life story as a film. Barbet Schroeder produced the film.

Lead Boarder Patrol Agent Michael Scioli said that Rado, whose given name is Preke Radoina, first illegally entered the country in Detroit in 2001. By 2007, immigration officials issued an order to remove him, he said.

Rado has been working in Los Angeles but lives in New York. He has not left the country since arriving, even though both of his parents died back in Albania. He has to travel by train to avoid Homeland Security at airports, but was determined to come to East Hampton to see his film.

After Customs and Border Protection have completed paperwork in Buffalo, Rado will be sent to a federal detention center to await a deportation hearing. His attorneys are fighting his deportation.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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