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Kennedy praises Obama on immigration

From NBC/NJ's Mike Memoli
MONTEREY PARK, CA -- Sen. Ted Kennedy spoke Spanish. It wasn't pretty, but it got the message across.

"Un voto por Obama es un voto para la gente!" the senior Massachusetts senator told a crowd on the campus of East Los Angeles College.

Kennedy spoke of Obama as a transformational leader, and made a direct appeal to Hispanic voters by highlighting his work on labor and immigration issues in the Senate. He also attempted to bridge the Hispanic and African American divide by linking the debate over immigration reform with the fight for civil rights.

"There are those [voices] in the floor of the United States Senate that were similar to the voices that I heard in the 1960s -- the voices of discrimination and bigotry and prejudice," Kennedy said. Obama, he added, has stood with him throughout the effort. "If you watched him last night, you saw a man of empathy, you saw a man of heart, you saw a man of soul, and I can give you this assurance, that Barack and I are going to stand on the floor of the United States Senate until we get a comprehensive bill."

Kennedy never mentioned Hillary Clinton, saying only at one point that the candidates "are not greatly different" on the issues. "But there is a very vital and important difference," he said. "And that is the kind of spirit and the kind of enthusiasm that Barack Obama has been able to bring to this campaign."

He noted the divisions in the Senate over not just immigration but a host of issues. "We need a leader that is going to be able to lead and break down the barriers and get things done for the American people!"