Don't fence off America. Don't build a wall to keep immigrants out and don't react with emotion to Mexican flags paraded on American streets.

Those were the sentiments of President Bush when he met with financial journalists on Friday in the Oval Office.

The economy was "Topic A," but the economics of immigration quickly took over.

The president was peppered with questions about the economic impact of mass illegal immigration: Do immigrants keep wages down? Do they deny native-born Americans jobs? Would wages rise if illegal immigrants were forced out?

Despite very strong numbers on the U.S. economy, immigration was clearly the hot-button issue.

The president tried to occupy the center: immigrants add value to the economy; they do jobs that Americans don't want to do and, if kicked out, the economy suffers.

He pushed hard for a guest-worker program, where illegals earned the right to stay. Mr. Bush wants a controlled flow of future migrants and no mass repatriation now.

Can a centrist position hold? Unlikely, given the current climate of debate. The two sides are far apart: Kick 'em out or allow virtual amnesty?

The president is on lonely ground.

Stuart Varney joined FOX Business Network (FBN) as an anchor in 2007 and is the host of "Varney & Co." (9-11 AM/ET) on weekdays. Click here for more information about Stuart Varney