Following a short but emotional family trip to Italy to reunite with Joe Giudice, Teresa Giudice says she is happy her husband is no longer behind bars, and opens up about how his absence and the reunion has affected their daughters.
He had traveled to his native country in October. ICE freed him from its custody after holding him for several months following his release from prison, where he served 41 months for fraud. He has appealed his deportation case and is allowed to await its outcome in Italy. Last week, Teresa and Joe's four daughters flew there to see him in person for the first time since he began his prison sentence. They spent several days there.
"I'm happy for him, happy he's [free]," Teresa said at a panel for Bravo's Real Housewives of New Jersey during BravoCon 2019 on Saturday.
She said she cried a lot on the trip and cried seeing her kids so happy. She said their daughter Melania Giudice, 14, couldn't get over the fact that their whole family got to have dinner together. And in a month, they'll get to do it again.
"The girls are definitely going to see Joe for Christmas," Teresa told E! News after the panel. "I was telling them, if they want to go for Thanksgiving...but he's in the process of getting his passport, so I don't think it's going to be ready in time."
"Maybe we'll split [Christmas]," she added. "I don't know yet. I might be working."
Teresa also said at the BravoCon panel that she thinks it will take about a year, or a year and a half before a final decision is made about Joe's deportation case.
Teresa said she's had a lot of time to think since Joe was away, and she's told him he was an "ass" on Real Housewives, and she said he agreed.
Teresa also talked about raising the couple's daughters alone while Joe was in prison. She said she spoiled them to make up for the pain of not having their father around. She also said Melania had the hardest time dealing with his absence. She had trouble in school, and sought help from a therapist. Now, Teresa said, she is doing much better, and has also lost 40 pounds.
"I hope they keep going on the right track," she said. "As a mom that's all that you wish for."
"I have to say, and you guys will see it play out, my girls had to grow up quick because of everything we've been through," she added. "Watching my girls, they're pretty amazing."
Teresa said that now that she and her daughters are back from Italy, the girls miss Joe more.
"That breaks my heart," she said.
Teresa said their daughters are the reason Joe is fighting to remain in the U.S. She said she told him, "You put us in this mess. If you don't fight, they're going to always resent you."
Being in ICE custody, the reality star said, mentally drained both him and the family.
"The conditions were so awful," she said. "People were cutting themselves."
Joe's more than 3-year absence from home has raised questions about the future of his and Teresa's marriage. When asked about a possible solo trip to visit Joe, Teresa told E! News, "Not anytime soon. Not anytime soon."
She told ABC News last week, "There's always going to be a place in my heart for Joe. I'm always going to love him, no matter what."
(E! and Bravo are part of the NBCUniversal family.)