If we've learned one thing watching Teresa Giudice on The Real Housewives of New Jersey all these years, it's that you don't come between her and her family.
But what's a fighter like Tre to do when the force threatening to break up her family is not an embattled co-star, but the almighty United States government? With a Pennsylvania immigration court judge ordering last week that incarcerated husband Joe Giudice be deported back to his native Italy, without providing an exact time frame, once his three-year prison sentence is complete in March of 2019, this is gearing up to be the most important battle the Bravolebrity has ever faced—and the one that, sadly, she has the slimmest odds of winning.
Despite always being a potential outcome for the permanent U.S. resident, who came to America as a baby and never became a citizen, since Joe began his 41 month sentence for his five charges, including failure to file a tax return, with federal Judge Esther Salas telling the Italian national, at the time, that, after prison, he would face immigration proceedings with would "likely result in … your being removed from the United States," the ruling last week came as a shock to Teresa, Joe, and their four daughters.
"Even though she always knew this was a possible outcome, Teresa convinced herself that Joe wouldn't be deported," a source close to the "devastated" Real Housewife told E! News after the news broke. "Teresa and Joe have no current plan in place for what to do next in their marriage, even though she is committed to finding a way to make this situation work for her family. She hates the idea of uprooting her children from their lives and leaving her elderly father who lives with her to move across the world."
But despite hating that idea, it might soon be the only option the Giudices have left if they hope to keep their family together. And that's because as a foreign national who's committed an aggravated felony—he only needed to have evaded federal taxes to the tune of $10,000 to see his charges become classified as such; as part of his plea, he admitted to avoiding income taxes on nearly $1 million between 2004 and 2008—his options at avoiding deportation are few and far between.
"Mr. Guidice was ordered removed by an immigration judge with the Executive Office for Immigration Review," ICE said in a statement to E! News. "Mr. Guidice has reserved his right to appeal the decision to the Board of Immigration Appeals and has 30 days to file an appeal before the order becomes final."
While Joe's lawyers have yet to formally file an appeal to the ruling, two of his four daughters have begun speaking out on social media, making it clear that that is indeed the plan. "We aren't done fighting dad. I can't believe this is happening. I can't imagine another day without you," Milania, 12, wrote in a caption attached to a photo of her and her father. "We are gonna do everything we can to fight this daddy!!
Gia, Joe and Teresa's 17-year-old daughter, also shared a throwback photo of her father with a lengthy caption questioning the whole notion of rehabilitation through imprisonment. "My father did his time and learned from his mistakes. Isn't being in there supposed to make you realize your mistakes so you can become a better person? And that's exactly what my father did," she wrote. "He hasn't felt or looked this good since he was in his 30's. We have so many plans to do as a family when he gets out. I need my father to be here. My father belongs with us and his entire family."
Joe and Teresa are also parents to Gabrielle, who's almost 14, and Audriana, 9.
Teresa has remained relatively quiet since the ruling on Wednesday, breaking her social media silence only on Sunday to post a photo of the Statue of Liberty holding her face in her hands, captioned with the praying hands emoji. The next day, she shared a photo of herself and Gia at Rutgers University. "Taking it one day at a time," she captioned the photo, explaining that she and her college-bound eldest daughter were touring the campus.
As she goes about attempting to keep life as normal as possible for her daughters, Teresa has a small window of time before she has to make some very real decisions about the future of her family. "Teresa is still holding out hopes for an appeal and she's got the girls holding out hopes too. They don't want to believe this is actually happening," a source tells E! News, though not everyone is as optimistic. "Family and friends are trying to support her while also gently trying to be realistic. They don't believe Joe will win the appeal."
As New Jersey based immigration attorney Edward Shulman of the Shulman Law Group, who's not involved with Joe's case but knows the attorney who's handling it, told E! News that, should Joe appeal within the 30 days allotted, his removal would be stayed until the Board of Immigration Appeals makes a ruling. "So the board is located in Virginia. And that's generally done on the papers, very rarely do they give an oral argument," he shared. "Generally, when someone's detained, they do it much more rapidly. Usually within three months a decision should be made. If there's no other appeal and it doesn't go higher, the removal will be as fast as immigration can get his travel documents together."
And if—or when—it comes to that, Teresa, unfortunately, will be the one left to make a very difficult choice. Does she uproot entire life, moving her children to an unfamiliar country while walking away from her lucrative career in reality TV, or does she let Joe forge a new life elsewhere on his own?
For now, she remains "committed" to keeping the family together, though, as one source told us, "Teresa has no plans to go anywhere at the moment."