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The White House is pushing back on calls for the administration to find a way to extend a controversial public health authority that has been used to swiftly expel migrants at the US-Mexico border.

The upcoming end of Title 42 – which was invoked under former President Donald Trump to try to contain the spread of Covid-19 and continued by President Joe Biden as the pandemic waned – has created a surge of migrants arriving in border communities like El Paso, Texas. Some have called on the White House to find a way to extend the controversial policy and the administration on Monday confronted criticism over its handling of border security.

“We have to follow the court order,” a White House official told CNN. “A court is requiring us to lift it on December 21. We are required to do it.”

Images from the border have raised alarm among elected officials, some of whom have publicly questioned the Biden administration’s readiness and preparations to handle the expected influx of people trying to enter the United States.

Over the weekend, Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia called on Biden to “use every bit of power he has as an executive to find a way or ask for an extension.”

“The president can basically, I think, ask for that extension,” Manchin added. “We need an extension until we can get a viable answer for this.”

The White House official declined to elaborate when asked whether Biden has the authority to secure such an extension.

The White House has insisted that the end of Title 42 does not mean that the US border will suddenly be open to all – and that there are existing processes in place to process the claims of asylum-seekers. The administration has also pointed to months-long work that the Department of Homeland Security has been doing to prepare for the increase in migrants arriving at the border, while also calling on Congress to approve extra funding that the administration has requested to manage the situation.

Over the weekend, a federal law enforcement source familiar with daily operations in South Texas told CNN that border authorities in the Rio Grande Valley have encountered between 900 and 1,200 migrants daily during the past two weeks.

A federal appeals court on Friday rejected a bid by several Republican-led states to keep Title 42 in force, setting the stage for the case to go to the Supreme Court.

The Biden administration tried to wind down the Title 42 program in 2021, but a coalition of mostly GOP-led states – in a separate case filed in Louisiana – successfully sued to block the Department of Homeland Security from ending enforcement.

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