"She’s very mature for her age," a source tells people of Joe and Teresa Giudice's eldest daughter, Gia

By Dave Quinn
September 30, 2019 02:49 PM
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Joe Giudice‘s ongoing deportation case has been hard on his family, but his eldest daughter Gia has helped keep everyone together.

“Gia has been a rock for her family during these tough times,” a source close to the Giudice family tells PEOPLE of the 18-year-old.

“She’s very mature for her age,” the insider continues, adding that sisters Gabriella, 15, Milania, 14, and Audriana, 10, “really look up to her.”

“With the whole Joe situation, she stays strong for them, while still fighting for her dad,” says the source. “Even now that she’s away for college [at Rutgers University], the girls are all still very close. She’s set a great example for them. She’s the real star.”

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Real Housewives of New Jersey fans will get to see Gia in action in November, when the tenth season of the Bravo franchise returns.

In the trailer, which premiered earlier this month, Gia was seen clapping back at her mother Teresa after Joe, 49, reveals in a phone conversation that he never wanted to get married.

Their fight comes as cheating allegations swarm around Teresa after photos surfaced of her holding hands with a younger man.

“See what I get?” Teresa, 47, tells Gia — who quickly fires back, “That’s your personal business with my father. So enough!”

And the source tells PEOPLE heated conversations between the mother and daughter happen from time to time.

“They have been butting heads, as all mothers and daughters often do,” explains the source. “Gia tries to stay out of whatever disagreements her parents are having.”

“She’s used to seeing rumors spread about her mom, and it’s never easy for her, but she does her best to ignore them for the sake of her family,” the source continues. “She doesn’t care what her mom does; she just wants her father home in the long run and will always have a close relationship with him.”

Teresa Giudice and Gia Giudice
Bravo

Joe has been away from the New Jersey home he shares with Teresa and their four kids since he began serving his 41-month sentence for mail, wire and bankruptcy fraud in March 2016.

He was released from prison this past March but is currently being held in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement at the Clinton County Correctional Center in Pennsylvania, while he awaits a decision on his deportation ruling.

In October, an immigration court ruled to deport Joe to his native Italy after his prison sentence. (Even though he has lived in the United States since he was a child, he never obtained American citizenship, and immigrants can be deported if they are convicted of “a crime of moral turpitude” or an “aggravated felony,” according to U.S. law.) His requests to appeal the deportation ruling have thus far been denied. A final decision is pending.

Last week, Joe’s legal team filed a petition requesting that he be allowed to move to Italy as he awaits the court’s final decision. A request to wait for the results back in his New Jersey home was previously denied.

Teresa Giudice with her daughters
Teresa Giudice/Instagram

A source previously told PEOPLE that Joe is losing “hope” that he’ll ever return home to be reunited with his family.

The conditions he’s been living in under ICE’s custody have also taken an emotional toll on Joe, according to the family insider.

“These past few months in ICE [custody] have been harder for Joe than prison was. The conditions there are terrible,” the source said. “He’s so close to freedom, yet so far away. Not being able to see his family, and knowing that he won’t be able to be back home with them, has really broken him.”

“He’s fighting, but he’s really resigned to the fact that he’ll be deported,” the source continued. “And losing that hope has left him bitter, angry, and unhappy. He’s a shell of who he used to be.”

Teresa and Joe Giudice
Paul Zimmerman/Getty Images for Mount Airy Casino Resort

RELATED: Teresa Giudice‘s Husband Joe Says He Never Wanted to Get Married in RHONJ Season 10 Trailer

While Teresa has stood by her husband’s side thus far, she has also been realistic about the fate of their marriage should he be deported, admitting on the RHONJ season 9 reunion that she’s “not doing a long-distance relationship.”

But despite fights the two have had, Teresa is still hoping for the best for Joe.

Teresa and Joe have had their arguments in the past few months, but Teresa doesn’t want Joe to get deported,” the source told PEOPLE. “She wants him to come home for their family. She loves Joe and it hurts her to see how he is being treated.”

Season 10 of The Real Housewives of New Jersey premieres Nov. 6 (at 9 p.m. ET) on Bravo.