The reality star, 46, told Entertainment Tonight about her daughters — Gia, 17, Gabriella, 14, and Milania, 12, — and their heartbreaking reaction to news their father would be deported to his native Italy after he completes his jail sentence.
“My brother called Gia because he heard it on the news and that’s how my oldest found out. I was upset and told her and Milana together, Gabrielle teared up,” she recalled. “Milania was hysterical. Like she was a mess.”
Teresa added, “My second daughter, she’s just like me, she’s very positive. She’s like, ‘We’re going to fight this right, Ma?’ I said, ‘Yeah we’re going to fight this.’ She was like, ‘OK!’ and that’s how she was. … It’s been a lot for kids to take this all in. It’s sad for the children because they’re innocent in all of this, and they’re probably thinking, ‘Why is this happening?’ “
However, Teresa has not told her youngest, Audriana, 9. “[She’s] the only one I didn’t tell. Joe has been gone [since] she’s six. And it’s sad, she needs her daddy home,” she said.
On Oct. 10, an immigration court ruled that Joe, who emigrated to America as a child but never obtained citizenship, will be deported to his home country of Italy upon his release from prison.
“I was devastated. We live in a country of freedom and keeping families together, not break them apart,” Teresa said.
“I know this whole thing is killing him inside,” the Real Housewives of New Jersey star said of how Joe is dealing with his upcoming deportation. “The judge went by the law and now we have the right to appeal, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
Joe is currently serving out a 41-month prison sentence for mail, wire and bankruptcy fraud that began in March 2016. He is set to be released in 2019. His wife served a little over 11 months in prison for the same crimes and was released on Dec. 23, 2015.
According to U.S. law, immigrants can be deported from the U.S. if they are convicted of “a crime of moral turpitude” or an “aggravated felony.” Joe has 30 days to appeal the court’s decision.
Giudice said she believes her “being in the public eye” has negatively impacted her husband’s case. “I don’t think my family would be going through this if I wasn’t in the spotlight,” she said, adding that she will continue with RHONJ because the “show is my job” as it puts “food on the table for them.”
In the meantime, Giudice is “110 percent focused on her daughters” and working to be a strong support system for them.
“We’re going to be a family, and we’re going to fight this and get through this. We are not even thinking about [whether we’d move to Italy] right now,” she told ET. “We’re going to take it day by day. We’re going to take it one step at a time. First, we’re going to process the paperwork to do an appeal, and we’re going to get through that.”
The Bravo star added: “I can’t predict the future … I am going to be positive about it. Joe starts talking about [the deportation] and I don’t want to talk about it yet. I am like, ‘We’re not talking about this yet.’ I shut him down. I don’t want to talk about it, and what comes first is our daughters and we’re going to fight this.”
Earlier this month, the star opened up for the first time about her husband during a Bravo panel at Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut. “Everybody, please pray for my family that my husband Joe gets to come home see our daughter Gia graduate,” she said, according to a source at the scene. “And that’s all I’m going to say.”
Daughters Gia and Milania have been vocal about their father’s looming deportation on social media.
“Let’s fight this,” Gia wrote on Instagram, along with a throwback father-daughter photo. “My father is no threat to society he is one of the most warm-hearted people I know. He would never harm a soul. He puts everyone else before himself.”
Meanwhile, Milania also alluded to the family’s appeal for Joe, writing, “My dad, who is the best dad in the world, needs to come home. We aren’t done fighting dad. I can’t believe this is happening. I can’t imagine another day without you.”
Amid the family’s difficult time, Teresa’s father Giacinto was recently hospitalized. Neither Teresa nor her brother Joe has revealed the reason behind their father’s most recent hospital stay, which comes nearly a year after he was hospitalized for pneumonia last November.