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Actor Anxiously Awaits Immigration Hearing

Arrested on his way to East Hampton for the film festival in October, Praq Rado says he is fearful he will have to return to Albania.

In early October, Praq Rado was on his way to the Hamptons International Film Festival in East Hampton for the East Coast premiere of the film based on his immigration struggles when he was taken into custody for having illegally entering the country over a decade ago.

Rado spent the next 10 days in a federal detention center awaiting a deportation hearing. "I thought I was going to lose everything," Rado said by phone on Wednesday from Los Angeles.

An Albanian-born actor, his contacts in the film industry feverishly worked to help him, and though he was granted a stay and released from custody while he awaits his case to be reheard in court, Rado's fate is far from secure.

"It's like being in jail, really. You're out, but you're not out," Rado said, describing the "stressful" situation he faces every day. He is scared.

At 31, he's built a modeling and acting career in America since he escaped from Albania, without papers, 11 years ago. Rado has been spreading the word about his new film, in which he plays himself, in "Dreaming American," a 24-minute short narrative that tells the story of his immigration journey.

Rado is seeking asylum in the United States, which was granted to his brother on the grounds of religious and political persecution a number of years ago. Rado had already been working with an immigration attorney in New York City to have his case reheard when he was arrested in Buffalo, but was in "legal limbo," according to one of his biggest supporters, Lee Percy, an award-winning editor, who wrote and directed "Dreaming American."

"That's why the arrest became, in some way, an inciting incident," to have the case re-opened, Percy said.

"Albania was the most closed society in the world," Percy explained. Rado's family — apart of a small enclave of Catholics in the majority-Muslim country — fought against the communists. Though the country is now a democracy, seeking membership to the European Union, Percy said many of the same people are in power.

Rado has also gained notoriety in his native country, "ironically, because the film depicts him dancing in a gay bar and having gay friends," Percy said. "There is kind of this entrenched systematic homophobia in Albania society."

After Rado's arrest, Customs and Border Protection 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. He was never deported.

In custody in October, Rado thought his deportation as imminent and almost lost all hope had it not been for the support he received. By phone, Percy read him comments on the news stories written about his situation. "In a way, [it] gave me faith and strength to just get up and be productive while I was in there. While I was in there, I started writing my story and started reading a lot," he said.

Rado was touched by those he met there — many of whom were young, hardworking students also waiting deportation, mostly of Latino descent, he said. They were all in a big room together with two officers watching over them 24-7. "They have stories, they have family. They're trying to become somebody," he said. He felt "hopeless," he said, leaving them behind.

With his next court appearance scheduled for March 15, 2013, Rado is keeping busy with work. He was in Los Angeles with Percy this week to work on a feature film.

In the meantime, he is working on revamping the website for "Dreaming American" so that there is a place for other undocumented immigrants to tell their stories. The new site should be up in two to three weeks, he said.

His hope is to someday start an organization that can help immigrants who came to this country illegally navigate the court system. But for now, he is just hoping that he is granted asylum and can continue to make films in the country he now calls home.

Daniel Talbott December 21, 2012 at 02:07 AM
Almost everything that is great about this country was built by immigrants, some legal and some illegal. Praq has extraordinary courage, talent and devotion and wants to be a citizen of the United States. He sought and fought for something better for himself and his family and at a very young age risked his life to be an American. Can you say you've fought in the same way for this country? And if you have how dare you or anyone attempt to stop him from doing the same. Daniel Talbott “Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.” ― Franklin D. Roosevelt
christie nicolle December 22, 2012 at 02:13 AM
BUT some immigrants are better than others... the white anglo saxon protestants did MORE to build up American than any other group... the native Indians were here first, however they did nothing compared to the enormity the wasps did. The immigrants that come to America now have no respect to be American... just to use it + defy it!
Anthony December 22, 2012 at 06:54 PM
Christie Nicolle that's true there are good and bad immigrants but clearly in our eyes Praq Rado is not a bad one he is working with the most respected filmmakers out there that they won an Emmy and Oscars for their work, and Rado opened doors for us that live in American, I got to work on Dreaming American film that is based on his life and I'm American.
Walter Noller December 23, 2012 at 12:18 PM
LS... Redefining an illegal act doesn't make it any less (how can I say this without offending?) ILLEGAL!!! Many who have problems with those you call undocumanted wouldn't mind if they went through proper channels and assimilated into society. It's not bias or bigotry or anything other than seeing that tolerating such behavior has underlying negativity. This issue, in general, has had a dramatic impact on our country. Instead of putting more people into jobs related to legal immigration, we put more on the boarder to try and stop them (which ain't working) and, as in any violation of any law, the penalty has to outweigh the crime in order for it to be effective. But allowing a sub-culture into our society and expecting law abiding citizens to pay and accept is simply wrong. Why is it we don't see other languages written on "everything"? are we bias against those from other countries and cultures? I applaude those who come here to become a "part of" and if the talent and work provides them wealth, well... that is the American dream but to see this country as an easy mark in which to come to, grab what you can and go back home, we're all going to suffer in the long run. Again, welcome if you wish to be "part of"(read Citizen) a great nation, but do so properly and we need our system to adjust to make it so you can.
1/2 n 1/2, 2 sugars December 25, 2012 at 12:21 PM
Why so much effort to deport this guy when others are arrested for committing crimes and then released...? The justice system speaks out of both sides of its mouth... One rule for some does not apply to others... Complete HorseSh*t...!!!

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