The State Department said Thursday it repeatedly has told Israel to treat Arab-American Palestinians as American citizens at border crossings and elsewhere.

Nonetheless, department spokesman Sean McCormack said, "it's a continuing issue. It's a continuing problem."

Arab-American leader James Zogby complained in a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice about the problem, which he said has been "an issue for many decades" for Arab-Americans.

McCormack said the U.S. has made it clear to the Israeli government that "American citizen is American citizen is American citizen. There are no second classes. There's no distinction there."
"You have a blue American passport, you should be treated like an American citizen."

Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, wrote that he had "brought this matter to the attention of the Department of State several times, dating back at least 30 years. Past administrations have expressed concern over this matter, but the efforts of our government have been ultimately ineffective."

He said U.S. citizens "continue to be categorized by their ethnicity or religion and are treated according to this discriminatory ranking system by a country officially, and eagerly, regarded as an ally."

McCormack said the U.S. government's view was very clear and "we will continue to reiterate it as long as there is a problem.