The 25-year-old driver was detained on suspicion of endangering lives after the migrants were found crammed into a cargo area with no window for air.
Dozens of asylum seekers have been detected across several incidents on the German border in recent days.
The van was stopped overnight after entering Germany from the Czech Republic. A 67-year-old German man was also arrested, border police said.
A court ordered that the Syrian suspect be held in investigative custody at a jail in Dresden.
Of the 22 people on board, most were Syrian nationals aged between 16 and 46, while one was a 17-year-old boy from Iran.
The Syrians immediately filed asylum claims and were taken to a reception centre in Saxony.
Ministers are under pressure to limit the numbers of asylum seekers being looked after by local authorities in Germany.
The government last week proposed lengthening immigration detention from 10 to 28 days and widening police search powers to speed up deportations.
Austria has begun using heartbeat detectors to find migrants inside lorries, as it says asylum seekers continue to arrive despite numbers falling from a peak last year.
In a separate incident on Tuesday, a man and woman called police on a group of men apparently travelling into Germany late at night.
Police detained 11 people from Syria and said they suspected smugglers of depositing people on the German side of the border.
Almost 100 migrants from Syria, Iran, Iraq and Turkey were stopped near the border in various further incidents on Sunday.
At one stage a motorway was closed because two suspected smugglers fled while police patrolled the border.