Teresa Giudice and Her Daughters Haven't Seen Joe Since His Release from Prison: 'It's Inhumane'
James J. Leonard Jr., the attorney for the The Real Housewives of New Jersey stars, tells PEOPLE that Joe asked the Giudice women — Teresa, 46, and children Gia, 18, Gabriella, 15, Milania, 14, and Audriana, 10 — not to visit him.
“The facility where Joe is being held does not allow for contact visits,” Leonard says. “Joe does not want to put Teresa and the girls through the horrific ordeal of driving several hours to visit him and not be able to hug him.”
“They would be restricted to talking on a phone while separated by plexiglass,” Leonard explains. “It’s inhumane that this man can not hug his wife or kiss his daughters.”
They have been in communication, though. “Joe and Teresa speak several times a day,” Leonard says. “This has been a grueling fight and they are fighting this together to the very end.”
Joe was released from FCI Allenwood Low in Allenwood, Pennsylvania, in March after serving a 41-month prison sentence for mail, wire, and bankruptcy fraud charges (to which he pled guilty in 2014). Teresa previously spent 11 months behind bars for those same charges.
In October, an immigration court ruled to deport Joe to his native Italy after his prison sentence. Joe has lived in the United States since he was a child, but he never obtained American citizenship — a problem since, according to U.S. law, immigrants can be deported if they are convicted of “a crime of moral turpitude” or an “aggravated felony.”
His lawyers challenged the ruling, but the Board of Immigration Appeals’ denied the appeal on April 6 , leaving Joe’s future up in the air. Now, the legal team has filed a stay with the Third Circuit Court of Appeals to keep Joe in the country.
“This entire process has been absolutely gut-wrenching for this entire family,” Leonard says. “We are praying that it ends soon and Joe can come home where he belongs.”
In the meantime, Teresa and her girls are doing everything in their power to bring Joe home.
Gia created a petition on Tuesday to stop Joe’s deportation. She directed the plea to President Donald Trump, saying, “Please use your voice, your power and your signature to help keep my family together.”
“The idea of starting a petition came from Gia,” explains Leonard. “She wrote it, she created it and she launched it herself. It’s pretty amazing what she did and the response has been overwhelming in such a short period of time. … Gia, Gabriella, Milania and Audriana have been through so much it’s almost unfathomable. They are truly amazing young ladies. The love they have for each other and their family is awe inspiring. Their parents definitely raised them well.”
On Wednesday, Teresa shared the petition on Twitter, adding praying hands emojis.
Leonard says Joe is aware of the petition, which has upwards of 32,000 signatures.
“I spoke to Joe about it over the phone and he was touched by the whole thing,” Leonard says. “He was definitely at a loss for words and got very emotional talking about it. He told me how proud he is of his four amazing daughters and how desperately he wants to come home to rejoin their lives.”
Trump, who became aquatinted with Teresa when she was a cast member on The Celebrity Apprentice in 2012, has yet to publicly respond to the petition.
Despite their Apprentice experience, Teresa told PEOPLE in November that she would not ask him to intervene in her husband’s case, explaining, “I don’t have a relationship with Mr. Donald Trump in that way.”
Still, she said, “I would take his call. If he would call me, of course I would take his call.”
“The entire cast has been there for Teresa,” a source close to the stars tells PEOPLE. “No matter what differences they have, they’re all mothers and they all think what is happening to Joe, his wife and his beautiful daughters is completely unfair and unjust. They’re all united in wanting Joe to come home, and praying that he’ll be allowed to reunited with his family soon.”