In some cases, the change has added to the climate of fear that is present in many communities. A complaint was filed with a Phoenix community college system this week alleging that staff members were asking students about their parents’ immigration status.
A few states have embraced the immigrants. In Washington, the House of Representatives recently approved a measure making young immigrants eligible for state college financial aid. In Massachusetts, Gov. Deval Patrick announced in November that some children of immigrants living in the country illegally could attend public state colleges and universities at the in-state tuition rate, cutting costs by 50 percent or more.
Avila was reminded of what she was missing out on as an Arizona resident when she recently visited an aunt in Illinois who was able to obtain her driver’s license because of the Obama policy.
‘‘She was showing it off to the family and it was like a slap in the face to me,’’ Avila recalled.
The lack of uniformity means young immigrants who move often for work or school experience shifting benefits.
Lucy Pinon is able to get a driver’s license in Idaho, where she attends college, but she can’t obtain an identification card in Arizona, where she has lived with her family since she was six years old. That means a relative has had to go with her and confirm that she is an Arizona resident when she applies for local jobs, she said.
‘‘It’s like, ‘Oh you’re documented, but you are still undocumented,'’’ she said. ‘‘When I'm in Idaho things are fine and dandy, but Arizona is my home state.’’
Civil rights advocates argue it’s unconstitutional under the federal equal protection clause for states to extend benefits to some immigrants with work permits but not others. They have challenged the Arizona ban on driver’s licenses in what is the first major legal battle over the policy change.
‘‘The federal government without question gets to decide who is allowed to be in the country or not,’’ said Michael Tan, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union Immigrants’ Rights Project. ‘‘It’s not up to the states to make up their own rules.’’