Joe Giudice is struggling to come to terms with an immigration court’s ruling on Wednesday to deport him to his native Italy after his prison sentence.
“Joe has changed a lot since he’s been in prison,” a source tells PEOPLE. “He’s a lot calmer, and I think the experience has really showed him how important his family is. This is breaking his heart.”
Joe, 46, 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 Teresa, 46, served a little over 11 months in prison herself for the same crimes and was released on Dec. 23, 2015.
The Real Housewives of New Jersey couple share daughters Gia, 17, Gabriella, 14, Milania, 12, and Audriana, 9, and the source says Joe “loves those girls so much.”
“They got especially close when Teresa was away,” the source says. “He didn’t deserve a punishment like this. He’s been here his entire life! He speaks Italian, slightly, but it’s not like he has a whole circle of people over there that he’s bonded with. How is he going to do it?”
Even though Joe has lived in America since he was a child, he never obtained citizenship, and immigrants can be deported from the United States if they are convicted of “a crime of moral turpitude” or an “aggravated felony,” according to U.S. law.
Joe has 30 days to appeal the court’s decision, though it remains unclear whether he will do so. When reached by PEOPLE, his immigration attorneys did not yet have comment. James J. Leonard Jr., the Giudice family attorney, also declined to comment on Wednesday’s news, as did Bravo.
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As for his wife? According to another source, Teresa — who did not appear in court — never anticipated the ruling.
“This is going to break her,” that source said. “She always knew that this was a possibility, but she put it out of her head. That’s the only way she could go on living day-to-day.”
Sources have also told PEOPLE that conversations about Teresa and the kids possibly moving to Italy haven’t happened yet, with one insider explaining that Teresa will wait until after Joe decides whether or not to appeal before making any plans.
“It’s ridiculous to think that Teresa would even be making a decision about this right now,” the insider said. “No one has any answers as to whether or not he’ll appeal, and how long that will take. She’s not thinking that far in advance.”
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