President Trump’s controversial calls for a wall or other structure physically dividing the United States from Mexico has created a fiercely partisan debate within the United States, prompted largely by a mischaracterization of both sides of the argument in biased media outlets around the country. The truth of the matter is, the majority of both Republicans and Democrats recognize the importance of border security, they just don’t see eye to eye on the most effective way to go about it.

The president’s decision to stick to his guns (or wall, if you will) throughout the longest partial government shutdown in U.S. history is now widely considered a glaring failure of his administration. Whether it’s considered a failure due to Trump’s inability to recognize the public’s concerns about the shutdown or because the president ultimately had to back down depends on where each critic stands on the political spectrum. Now, with another potential shutdown looming and the debate about how best to secure America’s borders still ongoing, it pays to revisit some of the efforts mounted during a Democratic administration.

Such efforts include the likes of “La Bestia.” If you aren’t a fan of popular music from Central America, you may not have heard it before, but you can rest assured it reached the ears of millions of citizens residing in nations south of America’s borders. There’s good reason for that: It was actually a propaganda campaign funded directly by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) that paints a picture of crime, misery, and murder along a common (and dangerous) immigration route to the United States.

They call her The Beast from the South
This wretched train of death,
With the devil in the boiler
Whistles, roars, twists and turns.

Hanging on the railcars
Of this iron beast
Migrants go as cattle
To the slaughterhouse
Taking hell’s route
Within a cloud of pain.”

Thousands of Central American migrants ride the trains, known as ‘La Bestia’, or The Beast, during their long and perilous journey north through Mexico to reach the United States border. Only a fraction of the immigrants who start the journey in Central America will traverse Mexico completely unscathed – and all this before illegally entering the United States and facing the considerable U.S. border security apparatus designed to track, detain, and deport them. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

The song was performed by New York-based singer Eddie Ganz, and it’s been reported that it was created through a partnership between the CBP and Rodolfo Hernandez, creative director for the Washington-based advertising agency Elevation. The song tells the story of a freight train immigrants commonly ride toward the U.S. border, which travels through particularly crime-ridden and treacherous Mexican territory. The song quickly climbed the charts in Central America, where its tone and delivery closely mirrored that of other popular songs at the time. At its peak, it was among the most heavily requested songs as reported by 20 different radio stations throughout El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

Admittedly, it isn’t easy to find reputable sources that tie this song to the United States government. The story received coverage in a number of not-quite-reputable outlets at the time, as well as a few pieces in more prominent publications citing those outlets. A bit of digging, however, confirms federal involvement in the endeavor. In fact, you can even find the song itself hosted on the Defense Department’s Defense Visual Information Distribution Service, or DVIDS, where it is listed as a “Radio Public Service Announcement supporting Dangers Campaign.”

That “Dangers Campaign” is described by the federal government as “a multimedia public awareness campaign to communicate the dangers to the children and their families who are considering the journey.” Their description goes on to state that the endeavor couples paid advertising with outreach efforts to Central American “stakeholders” to continue spreading the campaign’s messaging. It does not indicate that the endeavor includes funding songs for release on the radio, though some could contend that such a complaint is really “picking nits,” so to speak.

Central American migrants climb atop a freight train headed north early on August 4, 2013 in Arriaga, Mexico. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

The description does go on to claim the endeavor includes advertising as it breaks down the program’s intended goals:

The Dangers Awareness Campaign materials include print, radio and TV ads with the universal message:
-The journey is too dangerous;
-Children will not get legal papers if they make it.
-They are the future—let’s protect them.

It then provides a link to the “Dangers Campaign” homepage, which now has access restricted or has been taken down altogether.

The success or failure of the Dangers Campaign and its effort to persuade the Central American population through veiled propaganda may be subject to debate, but the outcome may be less important than the intent. The effort, which took place under President Obama’s administration, mirrored many contemporary Republican talking points in debates about border security. Although few Democrats would contend that they would prefer open borders, this campaign does lend credence to the president’s claims that the concept of border security was not nearly as politically polarizing in the past as it is today.

Men who were caught illegally crossing the U.S. border with Mexico wait in a holding cell on June 21, 2006 at the U.S. Border Patrol processing center in Nogales, Arizona.  (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Pointing out that fairly shady endeavors to prevent illegal immigration took place under a previous president is not intended to lend or remove credibility from the current president’s border security strategy. Rather, it’s important to note that these issues are longstanding, solutions have been hard to come by, and at one time or another, both parties have dabbled with security initiatives of a questionable ethical and moral nature.

Like so many topics on the national stage, border security and stemming the tide of illegal immigrants are extremely complex issues that can’t truly be boiled down into a single headline or slogan. It’s a topic of concern for all Americans, and both parties have struggled with finding a humanitarian solution. That shared struggle may be shaky ground to build from, but it beats no ground at all.

Migrants from everywhere
Entrenched among the rail ties.
Far away from where they come,
Farther away from where they go.

They call her The Beast from the South
This wretched train of death,
With the devil in the boiler
Whistles, roars, twists and turns.