Mexico awards highest honor to Sen. Kennedy

Senator Edward Kennedy waves as he walks out of Massachusetts General Hospital with his daughter Kara (L) in Boston, Massachusetts May 21, 2008. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico has awarded Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy the country’s highest honor for his work defending the rights of immigrants during his decades in Congress.

The Mexican government said in its official gazette it presented the “Aztec Eagle” honor to Kennedy in Washington on Friday.

“He has denounced injustices suffered by immigrants,” and “promoted initiatives to promote full political participation and increased access to health and education services for the Mexican-American community,” the official announcement said.

The veteran Massachusetts senator fought for an immigration reform bill in Congress that failed to pass last year.

Kennedy has been a vocal critic of Republican President George W. Bush and actively campaigned for Barack Obama in his bid to become the Democratic nominee in the November presidential election.

Kennedy, 76, was hospitalized in June for brain surgery to remove a tumor but showed up in Congress this month to vote on a Medicare bill opposed by the White House.

Last year Mexico presented Bill and Melinda Gates with the same honor for the philanthropic work of the Microsoft Corp co-founder and his wife in Mexico where they have donated computers for schools and promoted public health programs.

Reporting by Mica Rosenberg